Novel Writing Is A Long Road So Bring A Map!


Last week my writing sponsor sent me an email that said: If you don’t have a giant map of all the chapters, you should make one. Put in a line for what happens in each, then figure out where each one that you have fits. You really should know the full arc as much as possible — at least up to the point where you’ve done some writing. That make sense?

Hm, not make sense so much as MAKE CRAZY!  The first problem is that my novel is in a million different places: yellow lined notebooks, word documents, journal entries, scrivener files and even emails.  And then oh yeah, there’s that 50,000 word rough draft I wrote for Nanowrimo two, now almost three years ago.  After this realization I told Kate that “all my work has to be in ONE PLACE” and she said: so it sounds like you know what you need to do.

Here are a few things I’ve tried to pull myself together:

The first is an exercise from Carolyn See’s book: Making a Literary Life.  Pull out your rough draft, she says, and then draw a line to make two column on a blank piece of paper.  On one side write “have” and on the other side write “need.”  So that’s what I did and sure enough I started seeing that hey, I do have a story!

I’m not sayin’ it was easy.  In fact she suggests bringing a glass of wine along with you to the task if that will help.  Anything to get you to just turn the pages of something you’ve pulled out of the air and catalogue what you’ve done.  I didn’t have wine so I brought snacks.  Radishes and tea and also probably some ice cream.

I only made it about forty pages through though when I started this Savvy Authors  workshop with Jodi Henley that Kris sent along to me direct this week.  (This class, btw, is amazing!  Jodi is like a plot therapist.  Go see her on the site and for $25 and four assignments you’ll be well on your way to writing with more clarity.)

Turns out, Jodi’s workshop on subplots wanted the same thing: a list of everything that happens in the book.  This time I focused on her definition of an “action line” when typed out, from memory, all the important parts to the story, no matter where I wrote them down in the first place.

I’m feeling more sure of my story now.  But really people, how do I move forward in a little bit more of an organized fashion?  That tip in Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit about keeping immaculate archives?  That’s a dream that’s bigger than this book, I’ll tell you what.



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