The question for the week is: How do you make a story feel twisted, with lots of surprises? Surprising your reader is a practiced skill in itself, but there are some practical considerations.
You’re a reader. Go find your favorite books, and see for yourself what those authors did to pull you into their books. There’s a thousand techniques to pull readers in, you’ll discover some of those techniques when you analyze the books that pull you in. But there’s a trick to analyzing this stuff. You can’t just read, and you can’t just write your own stories. Do both, for sure. You need to also study.
Now we’re going into the nuts and bolts of how to practice writing. At this point, either you’ve bought my argument that you need practice, or you haven’t. I hope you have, no matter what your skill level currently is at.
Mystery writer John D. McDonald has a famous quote (paraphrasing a bit): You have a million words of crap in you before you can write a publishable novel. The more stories I write, the more I see how true this is. When I first started, I couldn’t plot my way out of a paper bag. I knew jack about character development. I had no grasp of voice, or setting, or pacing. Don’t tell the younger-me any of that.
Had a goal of 70,000 words to write in February, and I missed by a lot. Yesterday was day 630 of writing every day in a row, and it is currently week 91. Finished no new projects this month, and no publications out. But I've got a few ideas for this blog. The word count break-down is below.
So now, I’m switching focus from “NaNo-friendly” material, to stuff I really want to discuss. As an ML, there were certain topics I just never brought up unless somebody lassoed me into talking about them: politics, religion, rewriting, and practice. I’d occasionally mention practice in passing, depending on who was across the table from me, but never got into it.
A common attitude among beginning writers is this: I’m not ready to write this story, because I don’t want to waste words. I was no exception to this line of thinking. As if words were a limited commodity…
Approaching the end of a novel can be quite exciting, especially coming out of the bog that is the middle. You’re checking off scenes from your outline, if you did one. Those of us who don’t outline, can now see ways the book might end. (I’m typically 2-4 chapters from the climax when I can see my ending.)
No matter how experienced you are at writing, every novel suffers the one-third point problem. That is, you write one-third or so of the novel, and then all the energy and momentum disappears. You get stuck. You don’t know what to write next. This is normal.
Overall, January 2017 was a decent month for me. Not extraordinary, but I'm improving as a writer and becoming more productive. Took me about a week to realize it was a new year and put aside all the weirdness of 2016. Once I regained focus, I mostly worked on finishing projects left over from last year.