Going to the SF Writer’s Conference is like going to a 112-ring circus. It’s exciting, but then you’re got to deal with the resulting mess.
It’s possible to get too much of a good thing.
I now have to decide “what comes next?” Which ideas do I apply? As far as my fiction, I’m still chipping away at my novel, “Problem Child.” It’s about my “little guy” character who’s always trying to do the right thing but getting it wrong. I’ve written short stories about the Problem Child for several years, and I have stacks of manuscripts. But pulling them together as a novel is tricky. I have a dramatic through-line. But that’s part of the problem. The book keeps getting more serious that I intended it to be. When I add in characters and work on their motivations, the thing keeps morphing into another book altogether.
What to do? That was one of the big questions on my mind as I attended this conference. And the ideas point in different directions.
I’ve been thinking about is just declaring an early November and doing a month-long mad-dash through the book. I could set aside the outlines and plot points and just power through it. This, of course, is the NaNoWriMo approach, and they had a rep there in one session pitching this approach.
I did this back in November of 2013, and I still have that hot mess on the hard drive. Perhaps there’s a book in it, but it’s going to require an anthropological dig to get it out. Not sure I want to do that to myself again.
At another session I heard a best-selling authors speak of taking seven drafts before having a manuscript that was ready to see a “first reader.”
Seven drafts? Seven? Yikes.
I left that session feeling a bit beaten. According to this author, you write a first draft to figure out what the book is about, another to meet the characters, a third to floss your mind, a fourth to whiten your screen-saver, a fifth to promote semi-colon health, a sixth for a silky-smooth grammar, and eventually you’ve written enough drafts occupy all of Snow White’s Dwarves. At this rate, I’ll be 7,213 years old when I finish.
This author must be sponsored by the Zellerbach Paper Company.
I’m sure this is great advice. She’s a big success. But I’m not sure it’s a good fit for someone with my attention span.
What were we talking about?
Oh, yeah. Finding a method to write novels.
Fortunately for me, there was someone who’s ideas resonated the second I heard them.
Stuart Horwitz, the man with a method.
Stuart was a panelist in “The Art of Writing Is Rewriting” session, and he talked about how to “quick tinkering and start tackling” your work. His advice was inspired by watching a friend of his spend years never-quite-finishing a book. He wanted to get writers out of that rut.
This was when I perked up.
He talked about a method that falls between no planning and having it all dialed in. His approach is what he calls “Book Architecture.”
After the panel discussion, I was fortunate enough to see Stuart in the volunteers/presenters’ lounge, I pressed him with questions, and found his answers encouraging.
Stuart decries formulas, and his approach is a middle-way. It’s not “flying by the seat of your pants,” nor is it “do this on page-three.”
After small-talk about his escape from the big snow storm on the East Coast-he’s from Rhode Island–I asked him where I could get his forthcoming book. Like any “serious” author, those who hope to pay their bills, he had several volumes on him. I snagged #59/250 pre-release copy of “Book Architecture: How To Plot And Outline Without Using A Formula.”
I’m eager to get going on this, and I’ll let you know what I think. Since it’s not out yet, as of this moment you can’t buy it, you may want to check out his earlier work, “Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method,” This is available in print and in eBook format. His newer book ought to appear on Amazon, too, soon. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @Book_Arch .
Here’s Stuart’s author page. http://www.amazon.com/Stuart-Horwitz/e/B00AN2D09I/