NaNoWriMo’s nemesis: The 90-Day Novel

Posted: June 18, 2013 in 90-Day Novel, Reaper
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They aren’t really enemies, but I feel like anything that sticks a time-frame to novel writing must be philosophically at odds. Nanoers will say they only need 30, this book says you can create something in 90, and I’m sure I’ve seen something entitled “The year you write your novel” or something like that.

Anyways, I was tooling around my local library yesterday and came upon a book that I hadn’t really looked at before. I’d seen it on the shelf but told myself it wasn’t for me, at least not at that juncture. The book in question is a writing workshop book entitled the 90-day novel by Alan Watt. Typically I’ve passed this book over because I didn’t have the time, I wasn’t interested in conforming to someone else’s writing schedule, and I thought it would be the same kinds of things you see in those books they force you to work out of during creative writing class. (You know the type of book I’m talking about, each chapter devoted to an aspect of literature that you can analyze in other people’s work and then be assigned to write something that focuses on that attribute…the things that are nice if you want to do a general study of writing but doesn’t help you actually put anything together.) That was during the school year when I had a clear-cut idea of what I was doing with myself and what story I was working on. I mean, I’ve been working on Twelve for almost a year, I know that I just have to put my nose to the grinding stone and write it (I’m at about 31,000 words now and realizing it’s far more complex than I originally gave it credit for, but I digress).

However, I’ve had another story in mind about a Grim Reaper for almost as long and I’ve written almost nothing of it. The problem that I’ve had with my Grim Reaper story is that I have a basic idea but I don’t know where to go with it. Twelve has a clear cut start to finish idea but Grim Reaper is just a concept. Enter 90-Day Novel.

Now that summer is upon us I have a LOT of free time. I’m a school year employee so summer I’m at my leisure and limited budgeting skills. I figure why not use it to better myself and do all the writing that I’ve had to put on the back burner. Likewise, I do a lot of reading during the school year, and now that it’s summer I’m looking for shorter snippets instead of the long novel to read. I meandered around the library yesterday waiting for books to catch my eye. The winners include a dictionary of superstitions, a book about a woman who remembers everything since she was 13, WWII facts, and the 90-day novel. I figured I’d give this self-help book a shot just to see how the author planned to get people to write a book in 90 days. I know it’s possible to do in the span of a month if your nose is to the grinding stone, I just wanted to know what exactly was going on in this book other than “get your butt in a chair and do it.”

As it turns out, every day has a short few paragraphs of informative opener and writing exercises. The goal is to build the characters and the world as free-writing exercises, exploring the possibilities for almost a month before even attempting to write the story. The prompts for these free-writes are fantastic, and there’s more in the back of the book for the reader to utilize as they continue to explore. The goal is to write for about 2 hours every day exploring characters, setting, visuals, whatever you’d like to think about without committing to anything. After a month of exploration you outline and set out on your first draft, each day having encouraging snippets to motivate you to continue towards your final product.

I’ve decided to give this a whirl, see what it produces, and let you know how it all turns out. I’m excited to be working on the bones for another project while continuing on the first and with the time set at 90 days I’ll finish just after the beginning of the new school year (provided everything goes according to plan). This means, potentially, I’ll be sitting on two manuscripts to edit and rework when my brain is mush from interpreting all day. This is exciting. It’ll be interesting to see what develops and how exploring the world via free-writes will impact the ease of transitioning to a draft. I’ve never planned a whole lot. I’ve always taken an idea, ran with it, and worked through problems as they come along. So this will be a whole new experience for me. If I’m happy with the results I’ll probably pick up the sequel, which is called the 90-day rewrite.

This is day 2 of the 90-day novel, so I’ll let you know on day 7 if things are really going as well as I could hope.


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