Writing the last 25% of a novel

We’ve all been there. The stage is set, the outline written, and the writing is flowing right along, all on schedule. The deadline comes and passes, and 2000 or so words a day are humming right along. Then the deadline, artificial or not, passes. Falling down from the state of focus, distraction settles in. The momentum of NaNoWriMo passes and that 50,000 words fails to become 75,000 and a finished novel. What now?

There are various strategies of course.

  • Finish the flow of scenes that you’ve outlined
  • Give up lunches or get up earlier in the day to write for an hour or so
  • Set up rewards, like chocolate, if you get two hours of actual writing done
  • Outline the next novel in the series so you’ll have something to look forward to
  • Get a writing buddy and set weekly meetings to hold each other to account
  • Set some more deadlines
  • Write blog posts like this instead – at least you are writing something, right?

I don’t know why the last set of drafting the novel seems more difficult than the first three quarters, but for me, that’s the way of it. I don’t even have the excuse of it being the first story. To be honest, the first one was hard in the home stretch too.

Some of the distractions come from the second novel in the series sparking ideas about how to make the first one better. Other distractions come from the business of writing and the need to update web sites, however, some of it is just procrastination to be sure. Bad me, right?

I wonder what other folks do to motivate themselves over the finishing line? Share ideas in the comments. Looking for inspiration my friends.

Creating vs Editing: a writer’s challenge

When I’m in the creative flow, the words come easily, without hindrance. However, when I shift over to editing mode, to polish the words, the well seems to dry up. The hypercritical internal editor does not seem to be compatible with the internal novelist. I know, I know. It’s a little weird to call them out as separate characters, however, they’re so very different. They feel like different characters in a story.

It seems like the only way to balance the two ways of perceiving is to give them their own stage. For the most part, I am tending to schedule my time month by month – a month of outlining and writing, followed by a month of editing and polishing. When I’ve tried switching between the two on the same day, neither the writing nor the editing is any good.

This is in addition to the more normal challenges of switching between being in work mode for my full-time job and carving out that two hours a day to attend to the various aspects of being a writer.

I wonder if others have the same issue? Do you have trouble switching between editing and writing?

Writing regular blog posts

Sometimes it feels like I need either a keeper or an assistant to remind me to update my blogs, especially my writer’s blog. The last few months have been super busy. August through September was a lovely summer here in Seattle. Nary a hint of rain for the whole time period I think I remember someone saying it was the most days without rain in living memory. Truly an amazing thing. Raven and I spent most of the summer creating and then enjoying a new courtyard. The lure of the sun became overwhelming.

I read a bunch of books about the business of writing, attended some webinars – quite a lot of those really – and got wrapped up in learning some new skills. Wrote a few short stories and pitched them to various collections. Still trying to find the best home for them, though there was some great feedback along the way. In October, I extended the summer by visiting Hawaii with my sister. Did some outlining, and a little writing each day there, but not a whole lot.

Come late October, I started thinking about the next novel to write in my series. November was coming up with NaNoWriMo. The whole month of November I wrote 2000 words a day. That felt amazing. December, I kept up the word count through most of the holidays.

Changes in my role at work ate most of December and January. So here we are with not many blog posts to show for the last couple of months. I’m trying a new strategy of setting myself a particular time each week to make an update for at least one of my blogs. We’ll see what happens.

How do you write regular posts? Do you schedule them? Make a set of topics and stage them throughout the year? Write them around a set of events?

NaNoWriMo – In the belly of the beast

No doubt about it. NaNoWriMo is a beast. I was caught up in the belly of it through the whole month of November, writing 2000 words a day for 30 days. The goal? To come out of it with a novel at the end.

(I did it. 51,000 words in 30 days. Not really a novel yet, but progress made)

It was exhilarating, surprising, challenging and a lot of work. But yes, it was wonderful this time around. I’ve done this for three years now and am finding it to be a great kick start for writing more regularly.

Outlining the next book – the easy way

I’ve been reading K M Weiland books on outlining lately and decided to give it a try. Previously, I’ve used mind-mapping, that is putting the name of the book in the middle of a page, then throwing out everything on the page I know about the subject, like a mad brachiate tree-like structure. It got all the concepts onto one page, but not in a linear fashion.

This new strategy asks questions for a non-fiction book like

  • What is this book about
  • Who is the book written for (primary and secondary audiences)
  • What will they learn from the book
  • What are the steps along the way?

Getting these questions answered snapped the outline into place and had me writing 5,000 words in a single day. It wasn’t a detailed outline, but the structure gave me a framework to put the things I wanted to communicate into a good order. Moved it right along.

For fiction, on the other hand, I needed to work out

  • Elevator speech about the book – one sentence
  • What is the inciting event (what puts events into motion)
  • What is the main story theme?
  • What happens at the 25%, 50% (climax), 75% and ending of the book
  • In each of the secitons above, what are the main scenes. What happens in each one?

And then I figure out what each character has to learn. How they grow. What are their obstacles? Then I put those into the scenes. That really moved stuff around for me. It turned out my sub plot was actually my main plot, and what I thought was the main story of the book was actually part of the theme of the series. It had me discard about 10,000 words, keep 15,000 and re-write a much tighter plot. Yay.

Strong Mystery: A new book by Raven Bond

StrongMysteryWEB

Too much fun. For the past month I’ve been editing, formatting and proofing Raven’s omnibus edition Strong Mystery. The goal was to get it done in time for him to read from it at Gearcon, a Steampunk convention in Portland. He’s a guest author there. I wanted him to have physical copies to sell at the bookshop, along with his other series novel, Wind Dancer.

I’ve been coming home from work, having dinner and then sitting down again with InDesign. Later, once I’d printed it out, there seemed to be a couple weeks of redlining (marking the print out with a red pen) and fixing before it was ready to send to print. Happily, the copies arrived this week.

This week I’ve been transferring all the corrections to the Word files so I can publish to kindle. Just a few pages left and it will likely be up online tomorrow. In reading the three stories together, I realize once more what a terrific writer he is. The plots are tight, the murder mysteries play out well, and the magic system is believable. I can’t wait until he writes the next one.