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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Phoebe on Writing Fast and Furious

A friend of mine, Paul Bigler, who writes as Phoebe, wrote over 50,000 words in 14 days, completing his NaNoWriMo project long before the rest of us. He posted all this helpful advice, which I thought might be of some use to the rest of us. I'm hoping he'll be able to stop by and answer questions later today. Here's how he says he did it:

Here is what I did differently this year, that may not have made it faster, but it seemed to make it go on with less pain and less fear at being stuck. I did get stuck one time and I will tell you how I overcame it.

But first, I wrote down my daily word count, by hand at the top of a sheet of clean paper and kept it near by. As I wrote I checked the word count and kept knocking down the count to go; it seemed to help. I also thought of mini goals and going to 500 several times a day. That was a big help.

I made sure that I hit at least 5000 on a weekend. This way I could put some of the extra words into a word bank I could have available on the short days if I had some, and I had a couple of them when life just seemed to get in the way.

At the bottom of the document (which is well over 100 pages, single spaced) I wrote the synopsis. (This story is about..)

So if you write such a "synopsis" for your story and project, put it at the bottom of your document. Type above it so that it keeps moving down into the next page, and in this way you will (emotionally) always be moving down toward the goal and what your story is about. You will we be writing TO YOUR STORY, trying to catch up to it.

I then write to the synopsis. If I had put this at the top of the document, then I would be writing away from it and into who knows where? This way I write to the synopsis and it gives me a compass point.

Another change I did was to go to the store and get a composition book just for nanowrimo. I have used the comp book for a 'project notebook' into which I put all the notes and ideas: everything I have for this novel.

I would make an outline of where I wanted to go for the day I was working on so I could keep on track. I paid attention to hooks and seeds that need to be responded to later. I usually followed this but I did not keep it 100%-writing has a way of going places where I never anticipate.

At the end of the day, I would again outline what I had written as a memo to myself so I knew where I was going to begin next time. I also wrote out the outline as well, and a short sentence of two about what I wanted to try to make happen in the next scene or two. Some days when I got ready for the next day, I would write a page out longhand and let it sit for the night while I slept on it. The next day I would write from that longhand page and in doing so, add to it which greatly increased the word count.

Don't be afraid to write by hand and then write again on the keyboard. Remember to keep your hand moving. That is the trick. Like the other things where that works. Keep the hands moving.

At one point I got stuck. So I did what I had planned to do for this (I made a list of ideas to use just for stuck places) and I wrote a page, by hand, from the novel to the author. Yes, the novel is a character and if you let it, it will tell you what it wants. If you are not sure about it, remember, this is a style of literature that Henry Fielding used when he wrote Tom Jones. It was also used in the movie version. Something like having a dialogue with the narrator. Try it.

I opened up a sub-story behind the main one and then tied it all together. Introducing a new character helps.

I went for a walk to talk to the cats under the bushes on the street and asked if they had any idea. My secret!

Also, if you get stuck, another thing you can do is to draw some pictures of the story so far. Lots of times I do a little doodle of a scene and then let it tell me what I have to write. That may be like using a story board, but in pictures. Making pictures uses a different place in the brain and it will help the novel. Don't think of this as wasting time. It is the brain working at the level where it unlocks the story for you.

To sum this up: Plan your work and work your plan. Maybe you have heard that somewhere; it seems to be true for me and 50K in 14 days.



At 7:20 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Fascinating. Some good stuff to try. I've never been able to write enough of a synopsis before I've written the book (still haven't done one for my latests MS). But I do know what the story's 'about'. I just don't don't know exactly what it IS until I've written it.

Usually I go back to the characters and ask myself what they would do -- what are the possible choices, and what would the consequences of each be? And WHY would they choose one path over another.

Sometimes I have to throw more stuff at them to get them moving again.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

These are great ideas, Phoebe!
I just wrote a little over 22K words in 6 days to finish my MS for the Golden Heart. It is now on its happy Fed-ex'd way to Houston.

I didn't plan on that, but I discovered a margin problem late in the game that had thrown my word count. Suddenly I needed 60 pages and had to create new conflict. It ended up as a blessing, so it was all right in the end, but when I first discovered that the book was short, I panicked.

I think I instinctively used some of your suggestions. I keep a separate file open, so there are two documents open at once, side by side. The second file is my "Morning Pages" if you've ever read "The Artist's Way."

I keep ideas there and thoughts and fears and concerns, too. I found that when I couldn't write another page, which turns out to be around the 20 pages in one day place, I could at least make a note of what happened next, and what was still to come. My creative side was cooking, but my brain was fried.

I also use that document as a kind of stream of consciousness brainstorm when I get stuck. Instead of just 'thinking' about the problem, I type out my thoughts, and this seems to keep things moving. If I take my hands off the keyboard, I'm likely to end up stuck and afraid, but if I stay there, I might dig my way out of the slump.

Another really helpful thing I've found is having two monitors. We've got a desktop and our own laptop. (My husband is a computer dude). I type the story on the laptop, but I keep research open on the big desktop. Then if I have a question, the document is still open in front of me, kind of as a reminder to not get sucked into the wonder of an 18th century map and lose focus.

Thanks again to the Posse for the GH encouragement! I really feel like you made the difference in my being able to finish my first manuscript!

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Wonderful ideas! Thanks for coming today. I love the idea of keeping a word bank for those days that go bad. Lots of great tips here. Thanks so much!

Great job, Jennifer. Congratulations on finishing your first manuscript!

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Terry, my books almost always wind up much different than the synopsis I've turned in. So far this has not been a problem. I've found that the shorter the synopsis, the better. I once gave my editor a long detailed synopsis and the story idea was rejected. My theory is I gave them too much to worry about. If I'd glossed over the details, they might have gone for it.

Jennifer, Super Congratulations for finishing the ms and getting it off to the Golden Heart!!!

I was confused about your margin problem. I think most publishere, including Harlequin, are using computer word count. I'm sure that is the standard for the Golden Heart, too. Hope that doesn't make you groan and it sure doesn't diminish the achievement of writing 22K words in 6 days!!

Like you, I keep my notes on the computer. I don't use two monitors, but I have been known to have several windows open at a time!

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Thanks, Phoebe/Paul for your really helpful suggestions.

I like the idea of putting the synopsis at the end and typing toward it. No reason this has to be anything long, or even set in stone.

Another advantage of that might be that when new ideas for the synopsis come up, it's easy to page down to the synopsis and make a note in CAPS. Then later, the notes can help with the updating of the synopsis.

And I forgot I wrote a long synopsis for my latest story. I wonder if I should count those words in my final NANo count? It probably still wouldn't get me over 50,000 by the end of the month, though. And my goal isn't word count. It's to finish SIREN in addition to FAERIE, which I finished earlier in the month.


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