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Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing A Novel - 350 Words At A Time

Writing an 80,000 word novel can be a daunting task. Heck, writing a short story can be a daunting task. As I tackle my ninth novel, I've got into a sort of routine. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a pantser but a planner, and that means I write plot points for my story. A typical plot point is a sentence, or maybe two, and describes something that's going to happen in the story, to move it forward.

I'll give you an example. For a particular scene in my latest novel, NotDone, the plot point is as follows: Queen Fantine gives orders / damage report - talks to her daughter, Rebecca – more reports of mysterious messages being received by some people (Help…).

Pretty straightforward. So when it's time to write the scene I know what I'm trying to achieve and approximately how many words I need to write. Some plot points turn into 250 words and some turn into 600. It all depends on how the scene flows from my fingers! The bottom line is that I have a pointer to what I am supposed to write for every scene in the novel. For this particular plot point, the draft scene turned out as follows:

“What is the news?” Queen Fantine asked, still clad in her nightclothes and seated uneasily at a large table.
“We are assessing the situation,” one of the soldiers replied. “Sector six has sustained heavy damage. It appears one of the missiles penetrated the ground. A workgroup has been sent to investigate.”
The queen shuffled uneasily in her chair, pulling her night-robe more tightly about her. Her wrinkled eyelids drooped a little and she let out a sigh. “Too long. This has been going on too long. When will it ever end?”
The soldier looked at her and bit his lip. This wasn’t a question she expected an answer to. He knew that. “Anything else, Your Majesty?”
Queen Fantine shook her head and ushered the soldier away. Her head dropped a little and she felt a tear well up in her eye. She brushed it away and shook her head. “Wait,” she called out, looking up to see the soldier almost out of her room. “Fetch me Rebecca.” The soldier nodded and silently left.

“Mama?” Rebecca asked, arriving a few minutes later into the queen’s room. “What is it?”
Queen Fantine shook herself fully awake again and blinked her eyes at her daughter. “Rebecca. Come sit with me.”
Princess Rebecca, as she rightly was, walked over to the table and took a seat next to her mother. “You look tired, mama.”
Queen Fantine smiled and nodded her head slowly. “I am tired. And an old woman. But my duties are not done.” She patted the tabletop next to her. “Did you hear the news?”
“The explosions? Yes mama.”
“Not the explosions, Rebecca. I wouldn’t have called you here just to talk about the explosions. No, the other news. The voices.”
Rebecca leaned back in her chair and frowned. “More? What did they say?”
Queen Fantine slowly licked her lips and coughed as if to ready herself to say something important. “Two of my DoneSlaves heard the voices again. Both independently. It is just as before. The message is simple. Help. Please help us. Everything is not done.”
“That is it?” Rebecca asked. “What does it mean?”
Queen Fantine shook her head. “It is all they would say. I suspect there is more but I cannot be certain.” She carefully pulled herself to her feet and stepped back from the table. “The messages are becoming more frequent. Just like the bombings. I pray the two things aren’t related. We don’t have the resources to survive sustained attacks for too much longer.” She put an arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “But you shouldn’t worry yourself about this. I’m sure my Highs will figure it out soon enough.” The queen bent down and kissed the back of Rebecca’s neck. “Now get yourself back to bed. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.” (468 words)

And that's about it. Writing a novel 350 words at a time is a much easier task than writing 80,000 words. As a side note you may ask how I go about creating my plot points? Well that's a topic for another day. In the meantime try writing a few plot points and turning them into scenes for your novel. You may just stick with the process!

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