Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Resurrecting a Novel
I did my first my NaNo in 1987, before the 'official' one took off. I started writing a novel from scratch because I didn't know there were was any other way. Were there any 'how-to-write' books around? Nowadays you can't move for them, but I don't remember seeing one back then.
Ah Happy Days! Education was going through a shrinkage era so I wangled a year's sabbatical from teaching. My partner was selling BT's products in the IT boom so we didn't need my salary. I'd just finished a dissertation for a part-time MA, so I was into writing mode.
It took me a year to write the novel -or what I now know was a 'first draft'.
Not that it was the only writing I did. It was novel in the morning and short stories in the afternoon. I jogged round Greenwich Park in between.
Not all of it was writing - I had to do quite a bit of entirely pleasurable research. Towards the end of the time I printed off the completed manuscript and tied the pages together with something called a plastic tooth-binder. It wasn't good enough to try for publishing
Ten years later, when I'd finished a film dissertation for another MA, I decided to revive the novel again.
Sad to say, the floppy disks I'd written it on were completely redundant - no computer would take them. So I'd have to type it all up again. On the good side, it was only 40 thousand words. By this time I'd found out that a novel must be a minimum of 70 thousand words. Never mind, it would mean I'd get to know the book again. Especially as I was such a slow typist
Soon after, I was asked to write a proposal for a text book, based the dissertation. So that lasted until 2002, writing part time. I took 6 months off between FE jobs to finish it. Another blissful period divided between the BL and the BFI library, with a lunchtime walk through leafy Bloomsbury.
So, what with other distractions, (eg working for a publisher in China), early this year I still had 10k to type up. That's when I spotted the NaNo notice. A whole month of writing the novel - surely I'd finish the typing up at least, and have the word-countometer as an incentive as well as a 'community ' to egg me on.
I finished the typing-up within a week. It took about two hours a day, done in half-hour stints.
How to go about a redraft? Came the need, came the answer: I'd had this book on my how-to-write collection for a while but never got round to using it. It was hard to undertand. I carried it round for about a month before starting NaNo.
It's complicated, but it's not just about starting from scratch. Instead of starting at chapter one of the manual I start at chapter eight of ten:
Creating an Outline for a Project Already in Development or Re-Outlining a Stalled Project.
After printingit off, I've gone through the manuscript converting the 24 chapters into 62 'scenes', each with its heading. I've even cut them up and stapled the scenes together.
I made a copy of the whole text and I'm halfway through converting that back into scenes with headings. By this time I've got to know the novel again; I can see where extra scenes are needed, as well as some extra research. (A treat for the new year)
I'm using another book as well, but I'll write about that later.