Words will only be understood if they are put in the right order. Dog my is Indy name. That makes no sense! And while I am not that bad, my first draft has its fair share of confusing phrases thrown in for no apparent reason. That is simply because I am not an organized person. At all. I am clean, but ask me where my shoes are and ninety percent of the time I have no idea. I feel like this trait carries over to my writing far too often. Seriously though, how do you organize 100,000 words in a way that makes sense, flows well and entertains people? That is a question I have been asking myself as I deal with the first round of editing, rearranging, and starting my second novel.
I am taking two very different paths for my first and second novel. The first I was simply bored, and decided that the Nanowrimo’s challenge would help fill in my day. I had a very vague outline made of simple bullet points, and no real idea of who my characters were. Every day, I wrote whatever felt natural, with no thought of my overarching story. I figured it would come together in the end, which it did eventually. But at times my characters feel like they are all the same person. They speak the same way in places, and my world seems half formed. I may have benefited from some planning. (Thankfully I can always add more details during editing.) My second novel, I made character sheets, participated in world building activities, and wrote chapter by chapter what I wanted to occur. All that is left is to fill in the transitions. I believe this will help me keep my timeline consistent. Whereas in A Sparkle of Blue, I was constantly trying to figure out how much time had passed, my second novel will be easier to follow as I have it planned out.
I am having a much harder time writing my second novel. I do not know if that is because I over planned, or if I am just missing the structure of Nanowrimo. To test my hypothesis (once a bio major, always a bio major) I will be trying to write 1600 words a day on The Soul Heist. Of course it could always be the fear of utter failure. What if i just got lucky the first time? a random fluke? As much as I hate to admit it, I feel my over planning has made me lose some motivation as I already know what will happen in my story. One aspect I do like though is planning my characters more carefully. I feel now that I know them well before I even start writing I will be able to make them sound more unique. I feel more connected with my characters which I hope will lead to better writing and not a formulaic characterization. It is easier to create dialogue as I know my character’s personalities. They do not feel as shallow. I like some aspects of planning, but I also liked my random wild adventure to link 50,000 words together in 30 days. Some of the main twists in my first novel I didn’t plan originally, they just occurred. I am hoping good twists will still be able to manifest themselves in my organized framework. So this will be an adventure. More like a marathon than a race, but I will see it through then decide which is better for me, planning or pantsing.
The most obvious way to organize a novel is through chapters. But what is a chapter? Most websites I have found say about 1,500 words give or take. If you look at James Patterson, he has chapters that are around 200 words, one page long. But it adds to his quick tone, or he needs just a minute in one of his characters heads. On the other hand, Stephen King has sub chapters within his main chapters which are about a million pages long. I feel this fits well into his long epics, but it makes it hard to read just one more chapter before bed. Then we come to me, I just break for chapters when I feel it fits into my flow. Currently I only have 16 chapters and an epilogue in 100,000 words. I figure I will break up the chapters more as I edit. As chapters are a good way to break up time, it may be an easy way to get rid of some of my boring prose. I would like my book to be a page turner. I think by having a lot of chapters it is a psychological trick. It makes people think they are achieving more. Instead of not finishing a 75 page chapter, they finished 8 chapters! Wow!
Good organization keeps the pace going in a way that doesn’t confuse the reader. It makes sure flashbacks are properly placed and there isn’t a long bit of prose describing a flower in the middle of an action scene. I have a few tips I have found to try to keep my crazy brain organized while it is going a million miles an hour.
My best friends are post it notes. I must have used three packs. Often I have an idea for the next chapter or so, but I can’t take time to write it now, a quick note will help me remember when the time is write(haha, I am so funny). They also help me pick up where I left off the day before. Nothing is worse than being on a roll but then forgetting what you had planned to happen next.
I am a start to finish writer. That is all. If I get ideas for future scenes, I use my babies, post its. I have heard of people being able to write scenes as they pop up in the mind’s eye then just connecting them later, but that seems crazy. Even for my disorganized mind. I did write a few scenes out of order near the end, but I find them disconnected from the emotion of surrounding scenes. I feel they will need the most editing to make fit the rest of the tone. Maybe if you organize by chapter, and know what will happen, you can mirror the tone. I guess I will see.
This is the most important thing I have ever discovered. Do not be afraid to rearrange. Already I have moved a number of scenes around. My story is told through three eyes, so it is relatively easy for me to change the order. For me, it is all about flow. I want it to read almost like a movie, so captivating that a reader cannot abandon it. It is never too late to make sure your novel is organized. Without it, your readers will be left scratching their heads in confusion, not while pondering your wonderful ideas.