The Next Novel: Plan of Attack

I’m feeling motivated, so I’ve got to jump on this before it goes. Meaning, even while I wait for my revision letter for D, the novel I just finished, and try to imagine what it will say and how many pages it will be and how many weeks or months I will have to do the revise (which I am oddly excited about, doing the revise of D, which probably makes me sound like a total writing geek but whatevs)—even during all that I need to make a few moves forward into the next novel, M.

M is a YA novel—older than D, I’m thinking most likely ages 14+. She’s female too, obviously. M comes from two places: the novel I attempted to write during last year’s NaNoWriMo, and an adult short story I’ve been working on for a year or more that I recently workshopped. The two pieces come together in an exciting (to me) way, getting me all fired up to write this.

I was able to write D quickly and keep to a schedule because there was someone waiting for it—an actual company saying they were going to publish it. And they paid me before I did the bulk of the work, so every hour I spent, and will spend, writing D was already rewarded. That’s motivation.

M, however, does not have an official schedule. No deadline. No editor waiting to read it. No outline I am forced to write per the contract, no contract at all. I am writing M for myself only, and nothing may come of it after—I have to know that. That’s the reality of writing novels.

If my previous experience writing novels only for myself is any indicator, I could go off on a bender and spent FIVE YEARS writing a novel that’s too bloated and personal to get published. Or I could spend three years writing and rewriting a novel with a ridiculous concept that I will later use as a doorstop.

No. Not this time.

If I learned anything from writing D on deadline, it’s to move forward every day with the end goal always in mind—and yet to respect my own pace and not force it. So I’m going to try the D method:

  1. Brainstorm and create a 3-page “pitch”
  2. Write the first chapter (or two) to get a handle on the voice, the direction, the world
  3. Stop
  4. Now write a chapter-by-chapter “outline” that’s more like a rough draft
  5. Write the last chapter, knowing it will change when you reach it for real
  6. Go back and revise the first chapter (or two), even if this takes weeks
  7. Start writing the rest of the novel
  8. Freedom to ditch the outline and go off the rails
  9. No focus on page count or word count—writing scenes single-spaced helps me keep my attention to the writing itself, not the amount of writing
  10. Move through, chapter by chapter, knowing this will take months and months—set goals for chapters but don’t freak if they can’t be held
  11. When stuck on the middle, as per my usual, jump ahead and write Act III
  12. Then go back and write the middle
  13. Print on paper for the first time
  14. Go to town editing
  15. Polish, and draft 1 done!

So that’s the plan. I am NOT doing the NaNoWriMo method and I’ll tell you why: I can’t be focused on numbers—the number of words is absolutely meaningless to me for a first draft. The way I write is to carve out sentences, focus the voice, make everything reliant on everything else, every word choice significant in how it relates to other words. I cannot write blindly ahead without looking back. I write in small circles and with each day the circle gets a little larger, so I move forward, but I have to look back in order to move ahead. I see now that’s why what I did last year ultimately failed.

The 150 pages I wrote for last year’s NaNo? Even though they are basically a part of what this novel will become? Trash. I will not even be looking at them.

So that’s the plan, for now. M, I am very excited to write you. I’m wading my way in.

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