Finishing my Novel and NaNoWriMo 2020

Over the weekend I finished work on the rough draft of my first novel, Daughter of Spades. It’s still a long way from anything approximating publication, but I’m happy that it’s done in a way that I don’t resent.

Yesterday I started NaNoWriMo 2020.

I finished the rough draft of my first novel over the weekend, so it seems like a good time to do something new. You always want to give yourself a few weeks before you go back and edit. By the time I revise the whole novel I’ll probably have had a month between writing and revising any section.

Going into NaNoWriMo from scratch is scary. I took a year to write Daughter of Spades. Now I’m starting a new novel the day after finishing my first.

Lessons Learned

  1. It’s better to start small and link things together. Not only is it cool foreshadowing, but it’s also a way to keep the reader from getting overwhelmed.
  2. Commit to ideas. Leaving yourself the flexibility to change later just means that you must invest time in editing for consistency.
  3. Recycle characters and concepts across acts. Third-act surprises are more work for everyone. Minor characters who show up in a single scene are an exception.
  4. Write in consistent and timed bursts. I’m doing my NaNoWriMo with a local group and we’re doing group sprints several times a day. I think that’ll be a huge help.
  5. Give leeway for mistakes. Not only does waiting for perfection have a real and tangible cost, but things that seem like a mistake can become a valuable part of the story (and, if nothing else, replacing them later is easier than having to fill a blank page gap).

I’m cautiously optimistic about NaNoWriMo. Yesterday I wrote 2400 words, which is well above the minimum to stay on track.

Changing Gears

I’ve always told people not to feel beholden to genre. The novel I just finished the draft of is an upmarket visionary fiction piece, which is fun and great in its own way. But the next book is going to be a mass-market cyberpunk piece.

This shouldn’t be difficult for me, because it’s a style I feel comfortable with.

However, I think there might be inertia. I’m switching too quickly from a lot of built up habits. Shifting so rapidly between the two styles with little time to reflect on what I’m doing–to say nothing of the lightning pace of writing involved in a one-month novel–is a little frightening.

I’m really hoping to preserve the quality of my prose. I suspect this will be the most difficult undertaking. In particular, I’m shifting from first-person to third-person, though I’m keeping a present tense.

Dialogue tags and marking action is going to be the number one big potential mess-up I see from this transition.

I also need to work on filler words and other minor style things that probably didn’t cure themselves overnight just because I’m working on sheer word count instead of artistic quality. Practice makes perfect, but I’m not there yet.

Fortunately, most of my quality comes in the revision stage, so I’m not too concerned about this.

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