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Friday, August 24, 2007

That New Baby Novel Smell

Nearly every one of my critique partners is on the cusp of starting a new project. I have a new project too, but I can't start on it until my obligations to the old work are done.

I am a stickler for getting things finished. And I don't mean writing "the end" kind of finished. I mean pressed, polished, prayed-over, and pass the biscuits finished.

And maybe for that reason, starting a new novel isn't as exciting for me as it is for my CPs. A brand new project is like a new baby. It's all new and shiny and looks really cute in its little-bitty baby clothes.

Since I am a born-again outliner, the new baby smell is missing all together in my new projects. My oohs and ahhs are at the idea stage. This is where I get excited. By the time I get down to writing, I've already outlined the entire novel. I know where all the big plot points are going to come in, so no surprises there.

And I'm okay with that. I've learned this is a very comfortable working environment for me. It frees me up to get creative with the delivery instead of the plot.

This last novel took just over two months. I used Candy Havens' Fast Draft Program--slightly modified. While I couldn't finish a novel in two weeks, I was able to push through whenever I found myself stumbling over a scene or chapter.

It wasn't easy at first. My anal retentive side wants to suffer over a plot problem until it figures out the solution. But using Candy's method forced me to keep moving. And even though this wrote itself more slowly than what she advocates, I was happy with it because I wasn't worrying every piece to death. I was able to let my CPs hack through it, tell me where I needed to add, or make clearer, and move on.

This was the easiest novel I ever wrote, which is saying a lot because I had absolutely NOTHING to go on when I started it. I am not kidding. This whole novel started because of a contest where I had to come up with five spiffy lines. That's it. I built an entire world and plot on the strength of five lines.

But you know, now that I've done it, it's really not a bad way to start a novel. What is it that most people have trouble with? Beginnings. How often do we agonize over our hooks hoping they grab the reader right from the start?

If I start every novel with the idea that this is going to be a contest entry, maybe I can sidestep that whole awkward hook business by getting it right the first time, knowing I have to set up the seeds of character, world and conflict inside five lines.

Maybe next week, I'll post those five lines and try to disseminate them.