So, You finished up NaNoWriMo and now you have this heap of words. It doesn’t matter whether you “won” or not. 20K or 100K, you wrote it fast and Oh! My! What a mess!
So pat yourself on the back, brace yourself and look at what you’ve got.
It’s really easy, when you’re just writing and getting all those words out, to overlook some of these ultra basics. My usual problem s that I get carried away worldbuilding and getting to know the characters and forgetting there’s supposed to be a problem . . .
So, that Editor Brain you turned off? Turn it back on and take a dispassionate look at what you’ve got. Keep in mind that this is a work in progress. No, you cannot delete it. You are not looking for what you did wrong so you can pick on yourself. You are looking for what you haven’t done yet.
I’ve never had a Creative Writing class in my life, but here are some tools that might be of use:
- How about those characters? Do they feel like real people? Are they alive in your head?
- And the story Problem. There is one, right? Right?
- And the Characters had good reasons the problem mattered to them, right?
- And they solved the problem. Well, OK, this is NaNo, so you may not have gotten that far yet.
- And maybe you haven’t gotten to the wrap-up that shows what and how the characters are doing after they’ve manned up and beat whatever the problem was.
And having identified a problem, you can to do something about it.
Characters kinda flat? You may need to throwing in emotions and stage managing.
Huh? Well, to give an example, if you had written: Jenny was an intelligent blue-eyed brunette teenager. . .
How about: Jenny swept her light brown hair out of the way and squinted her blue eyes. She gave up and pulled the hated glasses out of her backpack and put them on. Heaved a sigh of relief. The problems the teacher was writing on the board were dead easy.
Okay, hardly a brilliant example, but you get the idea. Have the character _do_ something that just happens to let you drop in description. And emotion is especially important in connecting to the reader. Doesn’t have to be grand emotions. Who doesn’t remember not wanting to wear glasses? Of being relieved when a class assignment was easy?
And while I’m here, a common situation is one of those things that you don’t have to describe further, unless there’s a plot purpose to it. Teacher. Writing on board. The reader has filled in the rest, no doubt a memory of a classroom of their own. Which gives the feeling that Jenny’s young without have to rattle off her actual age. If she’s in college, the teacher becomes the professor. Voilà!
Onward! What is the story problem? Whether it’s an invading horde of Orcs, or getting that cute guy to notice you, there really needs to be a problem. Could be more than one, but one needs to be the most important issue, and the other distractions, or turn out to be connected . . . whatever. You the Author, needs to figure out what it is, because the story isn’t over until they’ve solved it.
It needs to matter to the Main Character. The burned out cop may not care about the murder victim at first, it’s just another job . . . but he needs to start caring, which can be a bit of character development. Of course the traditional way of making the MC care is a family member killed. But it could be beating a rival to a prize or a position. Escaping something. True Luv is always good. Achieving something that really matters to the MC.
Then there’s how the MC solves the problem. Did you make it too easy? How many try-fail sequences did you put in? None! They won on the first try? Umm, really, even a short story needs at least a slight bobble, and recovery. A novel? The tradition is three try fail sequences, a deep despairing/inventing/thinking bit then the character gets mad, gets determined and heads for the last desperate fight and wins.
Then the wrap-up. Has the Character succeeded without effort or change? How boring! Show things like a determination to return home, or a refusal to return home and take up the old job in the same mindset. Show the confidence of a person who has fought and won.
Me? I was trying to write a police procedural set in my SF/F multiverse. Over achieved with three disconnected problems. So I split it into a mini-series. Two novella length mysteries complete drafts, and a partial that trying to turn into a thriller/portal invasion.
But the first one is polished and published!