Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Every Wednesday from now until November 1st I'll be posting some ideas, resources and other info that may be of help to those of you planning to join in NaNoWriMo 2010.
Last week I talked to my agent about an idea I had for a new trilogy of novels. Two phone calls later, she asked me to put together a proposal and send it to her. That meant choosing titles, character casts, themes, standalone plots and subplots, interconnecting threads and a concept that would tie three stories together -- and all I had to work with was an idea. Four days, twenty-one pages and 5,454 words later, I sent my agent the trilogy proposal, which is now in the hands of an interested editor.
Don't start calling me a novel ATM. The first reason this proposal came together as fast and well as it did was because the idea I started with was pure story fuel: potent, clear, and powerful enough to keep the engines of my imagination revved. The second reason is because I did the work required to develop it from an idea into stories for three books.
When you think about what you want to write for your November novel, you're likely sorting through a lot of ideas. Some seem good, others great, but the best ones will be like finding diamonds in a gravel pit; they can dazzle and even blind you to everything else in your head. You become so excited you can't wait to start up your writing engines and hit the story road.
This period of excitement is also as it should be. Who wants to write a book based on an idea that bores you to tears? Not me.
At some point you'll realize you have some decisions to make, because ideas are not novels (if they were, I'd surely be writing my millionth by now.) Your idea needs some things, say like a title to name it, and characters to explore it, and a setting to occupy it, and suddenly your idea may begin losing some its glitter as all these undecided things start piling up around it and smothering it. You may decide not to worry about this stuff until you start writing the book, because the story details are a lot of work, and this, this is supposed to be fun.
A few of you will sit down in November and write a novel based solely on your idea, simply making it up as you go along. It will also work out for you because you are organic writers and that's your natural storytelling process. On behalf of all non-organic writers, let me say: we really hate you.
Those of you who are not organic writers but still choose to run with just an idea may get lucky and end up with diamond-quality story. More than likely, though, you will find yourselves backtracking and rewriting a lot as you try to stretch out that idea. You may become frustrated with how long it takes to work out the things that your idea didn't cover. You may even give up when your idea sputters out and leaves you stranded in the middle of Chapter Three without a clue as how to continue on.
Bottom line for non-organic writers: no matter how dazzling or fun it is, don't rely on just an idea. Take the time now to think about it, make some decisions and develop it into what you need to write a novel.
Ten Point Novel Concept Outline Template -- this is a very simple plotting template (followed by a filled-out example) to help you painlessly outline your idea.
Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley
Outlining: Clarifying & Accelerating Understanding & Organization by Dr. Robert S. Houghton (link corrected)
PBW's Novel Outlining 101