Friday, October 16, 2009

The Write Way: Return to Sender/Eyes of Gods and Finding Time, Victorian Style.

Time is precious during nano.  Heck, even before nano.  But it is doable.  For my second nano year, I managed to win twice.  You read that right.  Two wins, one month.  One novel at 80,000 words and complete; its sequel at least 50,000, although incomplete.  It was just a matter of allocating time.
You see, when I was researching the first novel, I ran across a Victorian reference that stuck with me.  About house cleaning, of all things.  You see, Victorians did not try to clean the whole house in one day.  Instead, they worked on a few rooms every day, doing a quick and dirty job, but the other rooms?  They turned over one type of room a day.  In our busy lives, this still makes sense.  In our busy writings lives the analogy is clear, too:  schedule your quick and dirty work and your daily focus.

First off, decide what on what you have to tackle to be ready for nano next month.  Break it down into easy categories, like:

  •     Research
  •     Plot outlining
  •     Character profiles
  •     World development
  •     Concept development

Now break it down further.  For instance, research can be divided into topics, some of which are cursory, every day type things. Other topics need in depth treatment.  In fact, some of the cursory research leads to an in depth topic. So for the first week, I schedule almost as pure research time to get ideas on what kind of characters, plot, world, and concept work best together.  Then for the next week, I schedule one day for each of the other categories.
That's fine and dandy for October.  What about November?  The advice still holds true.  Set aside some time for non-writing activities.  This can be for brainstorming, research, plot adjustment, etc.  Also, if you are a social bug, don't forget to allow for checking in with buddies, browsing the forums, and getting and giving encouragement.  In fact, making a schedule will help keep you on track so your research or socializing times aren't eating into your actual writing periods.

But what if you don't outline?  What if you don't like to know too much about your characters and novel before you write?  What do you do with October?  Whatever best gets your muse and inspiration going.  For me it was research

I had a lot of Victorian research done beforehand on Return to Sender, but I didn't have more than a core concept and a sketch of the main characters to guide me during nano.  I knew I had an eighteen year old who was given a second chance at life after he died, and he used it to give the dead a chance to fix something in the lives they left behind.  I knew the novel was set on the brink of a civil or revolutionary war, and Roderis, my main character, would not only be in the opposite country than his family, but he would be on the opposite political side as well.  I knew one point of contention between the parties was slavery, and my Roderis inherited a very special type of slave, an inhuman magical one, who was my second major character.  That was what I had going into November. 

I had less than that on the sequel.  I didn't even know I had a duology until I was halfway through November and had nothing left to write on novel one.  In Eyes of Gods, my main characters were reincarnated.  The setting took place in the aftermath of the first novel's events; it was "Elizabethan", because culture and world had regressed.  There was a weird culture set inside a mountain ring.  "Roderis" didn't know who he had been in his past life; his former slave did and was looking for him.  "Roderis" was also a male trapped inside someone else's--some-female-else's--body.  There was nary a plot in sight.

For both novels, I had no outline going in.  So, how did I manage that lack during November?  I allocated my time.  After I wrote each day, I made sure I wrote what the next day's chapter or scene would be.  What I gained in a constant flow of words, however, I lost in publishable quality of story.  The novel was good enough for nano, but the story and plot followed my whims and inspirations, and  it showed.  The duology needs to be rewritten, but I do not regret the results. 

Neither will you regret taking a page of out the Victorian housekeepers book and setting aside time for the quick and dirty everyday things and periods of focus for that which deserves it most.  Good luck!

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