The 90-Day Novel: Week 1

Posted: June 25, 2013 in 90-Day Novel

Okay, so I’ve just about finished the first week of this do-it-yourself-workshop and I wanted to share my opinions on the process. For those of you who have been following along at home, you’ll probably tell me I’ve been at this for over a week. You’re right. But due to my boyfriend’s crazy work schedule weekends are the only time we have together so I take the weekends off from writing. (That will make CampNaNoWriMo really interesting, but more about that on a later post.)

I really like this approach so far. I’ve been working on it longhand, which brings me back to my roots. I love writing in long hand. My first works of fiction were written longhand, sometimes re-copied stories longhand as well to ensure the teacher could read what I wrote because it was easier than getting my printer to work. Yes, you heard it. Writing longhand was easier than typing something up and hitting print. The computer in question was pretty old and I don’t think it was really meant to work with the printer we had. The result was it ate lines of documents. Everything would be on the page just peachy, you hit print, and if it was anything over a page long you were flirting with disaster because it was possible a line or two would be tossed into the void and then you’d spend an hour trying to add spaces properly to counteract it. As a side note, my family was a bit late on the technology train. We were still printing on a dot matrix when my friends were basking in the glow of colored screens and using their laser jets. We didn’t get the internet until halfway through my freshman year in high school (2001). For reference, my friends had been using internet at their homes for at least two years prior to that. (The added bonus of internet was that it was dial-up, which meant I had to ask permission before using it because it would tie up the phone line when I used it. This has nothing to do with my ability to type, but it’s always interesting to think how far technology has come. Thus concludes my trip down memory lane.)

Even after getting a “real computer” that could actually print things, I rarely typed anything out because the notebook was much more portable. I spent a lot of free time in school writing out stories in the backs of notebooks. My brain works really well thinking in longhand, so doing this whole process that way is an added bonus for me. A blank page isn’t nearly as intimidating when you can count all the lines on it. Go wide rule!

I digressed twice. Back to the point. The exercises. Most of the first week has been exploring character, the belief being that character will inform/create plot. I have to say that this theory has been sound so far. I started with a basic concept of three characters, a general idea of what the story might be about, and have played with such wonderful phrases this week of “Write as your main character: The most embarrassing moment of my life was… I hate it when… Nothing brings me greater joy than…” One day the book gave me the added difficulty of loosely giving structure to the story where I had to think about possible theme, initiating incident, my main character’s motivations, and what the moment of truth might be where the character stands on a precipice and can either jump or find a new way to be happy. That was a little more difficult, but the stress was removed because of the reminder that this week we’re just playing. We are just exploring. We are not making hard and fast decisions here that can’t be changed.

Slowly a plot is taking shape. I can see the rough outlines of where the story might take me and I’m really excited about it. An interesting side effect of all this play and exploration is that I’ve written snippets about different characters that contradict what I previously wrote about them. Eventually I’ll have to make a decision about which back story is right, or if neither are as I continue to explore.

What I’ve really found enjoyable is that by writing snippets of dialogue, scenes, exploratory paragraphs about basic life experiences and whatever else I’m prompted to write that it takes me back to when I spent a lot of time on RPG forums. I handled one character, thought of a nifty little scene opener and then left it into the abyss for someone else to write the next few paragraphs adding their own character, which was my prompt to write my own response. The exploratory free-response exercises are a lot like that. You take the prompt, run with it for a little bit, and then drop it for the next prompt (like monitoring several threads at the same time). That was what I loved most about RPG boards. You kind of hit it and quit it, leaving it to grow and change a bit and then you come back and play some more. It was stress-free writing. Exploring my novel, laying the groundwork, is a lot like that.

There’s no worries, just play.


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