Novice to Novel: part 2 – Just give me the gist


First, here are some stats on the progress of my novel.

Words: 50,974

Chapters written: 25

Words written this week: 127

Version 3, Rough Draft

I know, I know. I started a blog series to try and keep myself honest and motivated to write a novel and then I immediately failed to achieve anything the first week. But I will not lie to you guys or myself, that is a promise.

To be fair, it has been a pretty busy week for me. I had my Mother’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, and I started my last semester at community college. I am taking a beginning Photoshop class, how did I do?

Damn bird is trying to steal my boar!!!

With all of that being said, I DID find time to learn a few things about writing that I think will really help.

I mentioned last week that I am reading Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder. It is incredible and an indispensable trove of advice if you want to learn how to write screenplays well. I posted last week that I am using this book to learn how to write novels because I think that more and more, modern readers will want their books to read like movies; also I wouldn’t mind if this book gets turned into a movie someday and if it is plotted like a movie it should be pretty easy to do. When I started reading the book I knew I had made the right choice.

The first part of the book actually starts the same way as a writing technique called the Snowflake Method (I linked to the website where you can find an in-depth guide on how to use their method of plotting your book. This is the original method I used to come up with my story and I will expand on it in later parts of this series).

The Snowflake Method, in its simplest form, is when you take your idea for a story and write it out in one sentence. Then you expand that sentence and write a paragraph that explains how the book gets from start to finish. Then each sentence in that paragraph is expanded into its own paragraph and after that, you now have a framework for your plot.

I found it reassuring that both of the methods of writing were essentially the same:

Start with a sentence.

In screenwriting this is called a “logline.” It is the essence of your story, and the trick is to keep it short and to the point. This accomplishes something very important, It shows you what your story is really about. It is easy to want to add a million different plot points, contrasting characters, intersecting and nuanced themes, and so much more, that suddenly it becomes apparent that you can’t just simply say the plot of your book in one sentence. This is a huge red flag! This means that if you can’t tell someone simply what your book is about in one sentence, the reader won’t be able to tell their friends about your book if they choose to recommend it, it won’t sell, and you will die penniless without a single book with your name on the cover. I think we don’t want that to happen. So let’s simplify our plots.

Think of your favorite books or movies, I bet you that you can easily say the plot in one sentence. Here are some of mine:

  • Mistborn: An orphan develops strange powers and gets brought in to a group who are trying to overthrow the Lord Ruler.
  • A Man Called Ove: A man’s wife dies and he struggles to find meaning in life without her.
  • The Big Lebowski: A man goes across Los Angeles on a wild goose chase when he tries to get compensation for a rug that someone mistakenly pisses on.

The Big Lebowski was a really good example to use because it took me a really long time to figure out how to fit that movie into one sentence. That is because the plot of that movie is famously confusing and meandering. Guess how well The Big Lebowski did in theaters? Not very well. Coincidence?

I ended up realizing that I could not write the plot of my novel very easily either when I thought about it, and that is a huge problem! Going back to the “snowflake method” google doc I had created when I first started coming up with this story, I wrote:

“Lonely young man loses his friend and faces isolation while his reality unravels figuratively and literally.”

I don’t think that that is very good or descriptive, and to be honest it does not really represent what my novel has become as I have been writing it. I think a more accurate logline is:

“A young man discovers the truth about his reality and tries to change it, with terrible consequences.”

I learned some things just by realizing that I had to change my logline. While my novel does have a strong theme of loneliness and isolation, it is not really what the plot is about. The story does start with the main character losing his friend, but that is not what really drives the narrative. What drives the story is when his life gets more and more bizarre and he searches for answers as to why.

This also made me realize that I may need to rework some of the things I have been writing. For example, I introduced a romantic interest right before the main climax of the character figuring out what is really going on in his reality. This was because I was focused on the loneliness aspect of the novel. I now think that I may need to shorten it and make it less impactful because it really is just a distraction from what the novel is supposed to be and kind of kills the momentum leading up to the big reveal. I learned all of that just by trying to figure out how to fit my novel into one sentence.

I have decided that I may need to start from scratch to refocus my attention on what I want this novel to be. I am going to go through the Snowflake Method again and see if anything new comes out of it because it will be good to get a broader sense of what I am writing. It gets so easy to get stuck in the minutia of writing each sentence of each paragraph of each chapter, that remembering what I am really writing about can get lost. So next week, I will present my “snowflake method redux” and what I discover while doing it.

Thank you so very much for reading this. I am having a lot of fun writing this series and I hope you are finding my “Writer’s Journey” interesting in some way. Please feel free to comment with any ideas you have, advice you want to give, or any feedback and I will make sure to read them.

Until Next Time!

Chris Joy

Categories: Novice to NovelTags: , , , ,

1 comment

  1. Here’s my own personal advice for writing. Even if you have writer’s block, you still have a major scene that you want to include in the book. Start with that idea, but draw a circle around it and plot out what leads to that idea. What characters are involved, what other events are involved, what causes the two events to link. I find bubble graphs helpful for making a story as it helps you decide what happens where and who’s involved.

    Like

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