Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The 90-Day Novel and Writer Know Thyself

I told you I'd be giving you an update on the 90- day novel project. News is mixed. I like the discovery and story-telling philosophies in Alan Watt's 90-Day Novel, but the pace of the exercises isn't working for me. The first couple of weeks are spent on getting to know the character in depth. The idea is fine, but for me, a week of that is more than enough. Even now, heading into the third week, the bulk of the exercises revolve around character and the surface of plot is just being scratched.

Don't get me wrong, I believe character is important and I understand that it's the character's motivations and desires that drive the plot, but to dwell there forever isn't preparing me to write the type of story I want to write. In many ways, Watt's method seems to be leading people into to being good pantsers. (A pantser is someone who dives into their writing with little planning, preferring to figure the story out as they go along – by the seat of their pants.)

Truth is, the method of the book and my style of writing just don't mesh. By this point in the process, I prefer to know where I'm headed and should be developing a solid plan to get there. Otherwise, I lose momentum. Right now, I feel like I've lost the voice, the attitude, of the story. It won't be too hard to regain but I need to change course now or this project will end up dead in the water. I will continue to read Watt's book for his ideas on storytelling, but I will be switching back to my own method for plotting.

This is where understanding yourself as a writer becomes important. You'll read tips on how to do things and some of them will even come from your favorite authors; it's great to try those things, but don't get discouraged if they don't work for you. Know that your path and your method will be yours alone, and that's okay. That's the way it should be. That is what will make you the unique writer you are destined to be.

If you're so new to writing that you don't have your own method, take a look at your work habits. Do you like to plan your tasks, or do them on a whim? Do you like to tackle jobs in big chunks of time, or spread out in little bits? What time of day do you work best? Consider these things when you're planning out your time to write and when you're creating your goals. If you only have an hour to write each morning, don't be disappointed if you don't get to 2000 words every day. Be realistic and cut yourself some slack.

That's one element I like about the Watt book. It's very low pressure. He keeps reminding you that there are no mistakes at this stage – it's all discovery. That keeps the fear out of writing and that's a good thing. Your first draft should be fearless, which is actually very hard to achieve. Our over-thinking brains and social conditioning tend to get in the way. Any method that can reduce fear is fine by me.

So for as much as I'm veering away from the exercises in the book, it has still taught me a lot and I expect it will continue to do so. It's been a good exploration, and I'm sure the method works great for some people. In the end, I encourage you to try new things but remember to always be true to yourself.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I've learned lately is that I need to do more world building and planning in the early stages. I usually take an idea and a character, throw them together and see what happens, but that's challenging on story structure, and leads to so much rewriting and second draft restructuring. Which is just a beast. Maybe it's just that I'm in second draft trenches for both of my WIP, but I'm starting to see that spending a bit more time structurally would make this part of it so much easier. I love this first draft is fearless mentality. But I wonder if more plotting might make my second drafts more fun.

    Great post.


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