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No Plot? No Problem

Chris baty

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Many of us are 'One-Day' novelists - as in one day I'm going to write a book.

What you need is a deadline. So began National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. You have to write a 50,000 word draft in one month - so you have to write even when you don't want to, to meet your daily quota of about 1600 words, which should take about an hour and a half.

Started 1999 with 21 people. By the end of the month only 6 of them hit the 50,000 word target. Rest fell short by anywhere between 500 and 49,000 words. Some of us bragged so much to our friends that we had no choice but to finish. Five years later, had grown to 25,000 participants (but still only about a fifth actually finished).

Novels are always crap in first draft - but best way to make something of beauty is to risk making something really crappy. If you need confirmation of this, try learning salsa dancing.

We have a strong propensity to stick with what we know, and avoid trying new things that may make us look stupid or incompetent, and we get very impatient with anything that we don't get right away.

Tols story of guy who wrote 12,000 words then got stuck. Couldn't figure out what wanted characters to do. Got submerged in urgent stuff at work. Then, with 3 days left to go, got a new inspiration and dived in again, writing 35,000 words in 3 days, finishing with just minutes to spare. And the thing is, her's done this every year for the past 5 years.

Trick is not to overplan - if put too much time into pre-planning, puts too much pressure on you to produce something to justify all the planning.

Take bits of character from people around you. Once you have your characters, plot will just happen bc characters demand it. Watch a few episodes of soapies to see various dramatic possibilities - people get fired or have accidents; relationships bloom/fade/explode.

Enid Blyton used to write like this. She regularly churned out 6000 words a day. She could start a 6000 word edition of the Famous Five or Sectret Seven on Mon morning and finish on Fri afternoon.

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