I’ve got 50,000 words! What do I do with them???
I reached my 50,000 word count in NaNoWriMo and I’m proud of it. Writing 50,000 words about anything in a single month is quite an accomplishment. My schedule was packed, so I didn’t have as many hours to work on it as I would have liked. In all, I would say that I spent a mere 50 hours on my novel. That means I averaged 1000 words an hour or slightly less than 17 words a minute. That doesn’t account for the time I spent thinking about my novel the rest of the day, but it does account for all of the time I spent sitting in front of my computer with the word processor running and my novel in front of me.
I’m not really surprised at the speed at which I wrote. I once wrote a much more coherent 30,000 word novella over a weekend, so I know that I can churn out prose quickly when I really want to. That said, it doesn’t mean the novel is good yet, or even bad yet. At this point, it is merely a collection of 50,000 words about a set of characters. While I managed to give my story a beginning and an end, the story is far from finished. A quick assessment reveals the following problems:
- The plot isn’t a plot so much as a series of semi-related events. I didn’t start with a clear plot outline, and it shows. Plan 9 From Outer Space has a more cohesive plot than my novel at this point.
- Several of the characters do not have complete story arcs. They wander in and out of the story without any real resolution.
- The character with the greatest number of pages and the most complete story was supposed to be a minor character.
- My intended protagonist doesn’t feel real or interesting yet.
- Two planned characters do not appear in the story at all
- There are pages of dialog without any intervening action, narration or description.
- There are more sex scenes than a late night movie on Cinemax. (Who knows, this may be a good thing)
I’m not listing these problems to get down on myself or the process. I expected that the output would be rough. It is a first draft, and a quickly written one at that. Parts of what I wrote are very appealing to me. Other parts feel more like filler or character exploration than a genuine part of the story. Some of the problems with my first draft are unique to my work, but most of the problems are universal. A first draft is a first draft. It is created to be revised. Even second and third drafts of novels are far from complete and perfect. That is why we revise. That is why we edit.
This brings up the question, where do we go from here? There are many methods for revision, but this is the one I plan to use.
- Read the novel as it sits from start to finish while taking notes but not editing
- Perform a “light edit” (spelling and grammar) on the novel
- Reorder the novel so that it follows a chronology
- Read the novel again while taking notes AND editing
- Assemble a Style / Information Guide
- Re-evaluate the novel and determine goals
- Create a revised plot outline
- Write new scenes
- Revise old scenes
- Edit with an eye toward continuity
- Have someone I trust read and evaluate the novel
- Go through the whole process again
For the month of December I will discuss all of these steps in greater detail. I might come up with a few more things along the way as well. I would love to hear what other participants (or anyone with a novel to revise) plan to do with their work.