Monday, November 16, 2009

NaNoWriMo Strikes Back!

Well, just when I thought I had this NaNoWriMo beast tamed, it snuck up and bit me in the butt. I’m behind again, though only by a day.

One problem is my eyeballs. They just don’t want to stay open and stare at a computer all day. Before I start drafting, I like to sit down and figure out what’s going to happen in each scene. This sort of brainstorming involves a lot of talking to myself via computer. And while it gets the job done, it means that by the time I actually start writing my eyes are already half fried. Blogging takes its toll too, of course, but there’s no help for that. I’m addicted.

The other hangup is the plotting. What's always mattered most to me as a reader are great characters and a strong, rhythmic narrative voice. My favorite series reflect this: Spenser, Rumpole, Breckenridge Elkins, Conan, Nero Wolfe. Plot has always been a mysterious thing.

A 50,000 word novel seemed like a great place to get a handle on plot, so I’m struggling to confine myself to a strict four-act structure. I’m still convinced this is a good idea, but the sucker keeps wiggling around as I write, forcing adjustments as I go. At this point I know exactly what happens at the end of Act II (1700 words away), but Act III has only a beginning and an end.

On the plus side, I seem to be building some writing muscles. I’m forcing myself to work at times I otherwise wouldn’t. The other night I dashed off 700 words while running back and forth to the stove to brown hamburger and make a pot of macaroni and cheese to put it in. Both the 700 words and the vittles turned out pretty good, too. I’m hoping the subtitle of next week’s recap is The Writer Rides Again.


Angie said...

Not only a fabulous writer, but a gourmet!

Joseph A. West said...

Man, you're doing better than me. I've got a novel due January 1 and I'll I've written so far are 12,000words of the vilest crap you could ever imagine.
This is it - the big one that finally tips my editor over the edge.
I can hear him now: "West, you're done. You'll never write in this town again."
Keep on going. You'll get it done. Nobody ever said the life of the poor, wretched scribe was easy.

Laurie Powers said...

Dave, don't worry. I've been hearing from a lot of people right now that they're struggling or hitting a wall. I'm confident that if you've made it this far, you're going to make it all the way. Keep pushing that pencil.

Cap'n Bob said...

You know you're a real author when you have to eat macaroni and cheese.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks, all. Since this morning I've whacked out yesterday's words and even got the first 99 of today's. Will get back to it soon, but now it's time for a leftover mac and cheese break.

Ann Littlewood said...

I am so proud of you.

Rittster said...


What, generally, is the 4-act structure? Is there a website which explains it that you can steer me to?


Richard Prosch said...

Great work, Dave! Maybe write some longhand to give the eyes a rest.

Evan Lewis said...

4-Act Structure. Hm. I expect there are a lot of good sites. You might google it. There's a great ebook available at

The basic idea is that Act I is the Set-up, Act II the Response, Act III the Attack and Act IV the Resolution.

Screenwriters use a 3-Act structure that is very similar, in which Acts II and III are combined.

Rittster said...


Yeah, I'm familiar with the three-act structure from plays and screenplays, but I've never heard of a four-act structure in relation to novels, so I was stymied when you mentioned it. Now that I think about it, I don't think I was aware of any general structure when it came to writing books. But I'm always eager to learn more and will check out that storyflix site. Thanks for the response!

Oscar Case said...

Dave: From all the books that are published, you would never know the trials and tribs a writer goes through. It all looks so easy when it appears in the final product! Stumbling blocks, mind blanks, brick walls, plotting, sub-plotting, layouts, Acts I, II and A-A-A-RGH GUH!

Unknown said...

If you can do 700 words while cooking, you have tamed this beast. Perhaps, you just have too much on your plate! (Pun intended! Haha!) I joined 5 days late so I'm always behind, but it's the kick in the pants I needed. We should probably not think too hard about the 50,000. If we're not enjoying our writing, it's likely that others won't either. Just my 2 cents, (she said while goofing off and not writing. :o/ ) I'm going to be a little less strict with myself. Care to join in? (No. I'm not insinuating anything other than being less strict! Get your minds out of the gutter, you guys! LOL!)