It’s 7:42 PM on a Sunday, and we all know what that means: It’s time for another writing-related post to bore and alienate people.
On my first WordPress post ever, I was starting on draft six of my novel which was a little over 75,000 words (and the title to my first post was misspelled, as evidenced by the perma-link—I’m awesome). I’m currently halfway through draft seven and the word count has gone up to 79,000. Still fluctuating.
[UPDATE/NOTE: Check the comments for other WordPressers’ thoughts on planning out your novel.]
Substantive Changes in Later Drafts
Since I started this novel, I knew that I would immediately have to make huge substantive changes when I started editing: adding, removing, and changing entire characters and events. This was somewhat anticipated because I wrote my novel in a don’t-look-back method where I would avoid editing my chapters too much as I went. My priority was to reach my word count goal. So, it was a given that I would need to make important changes to the novel.
However, I didn’t expect that I would still be making major substantive changes while working on draft seven. Really, I thought by the time I got this far, I’d simply be tweaking prose and correcting grammar and spelling mistakes.
This problem likely resulted from not starting with a detailed outline; I just created the world and a few characters with certain psychological profiles, and nudged them forward to do whatever they wanted. This resulted in a whole lot of mundane crap that had to be cut and altered.
Benefits of “Proper” Planning
I don’t think there’s absolutely correct way to plan a novel. Between the many successful authors out there, I’m sure they’ve used just about every method conceivable. That being said, I think there are a few things I could’ve done to help me write a better novel and avoid making substantive edits so late in the game:
1. Come up with awesome, turning point scenes first and lead my characters there.
I know some writers actually start off by writing the ending climax of their novel before anything else. I think that’s worth a look.
It’s natural for writers to come up with climax scenes at least a little ahead of time. For example, I’d be writing chapter six and think, “It’d be cool if ABC happened,” and then I would use X number of chapters to get there. However, planning the major events earlier is probably beneficial to the flow of the narration. Unplanned, crazy events might be too jarring. Also, unlike other things in life, a novel should only have so many climaxes.
2. Try, on the first run, to leave a cliffhanger/hook on every chapter.
It may be kind of cheesy in a way, I sure thought so when I switched from reading classic literature to newer, popular novels. Over time, though, I’ve grown to accept this tactic. You never want your reader to finish a chapter and just think, “Oh, that was nice and symbolic, and worded in a very pleasing manner.” You want them to think, “Cripes! What happens next?!” (the “cripes” is optional).
For my WIP, my early chapters spent time developing characters and doing intermittent bits of world building, but there weren’t enough “oh schnapps” moments. On this edit run, and the last, I’ve been remedying my novel of that ailment and I think it’s a much better read now.
3. I need a new laptop.
Okay, this has nothing to do with anyone else, but my monitor has been on the fritz as of late and the screen was too small to begin with. A new laptop with a bigger screen would also be useful for novel-writing purposes.