Friday, November 25, 2011

Fast Novel-Writing a la Melissa & Joey

It's Nano month, and even though I'm abstaining because of my serious need to re-outline a previous project, I understand the frenzy of writing that takes place while trying to eek out 50,000 words in 30 days.

It. is. hard.

That's why last night's Melissa & Joey-watching yielded some disbelieving scoffs from me. It's not the latest episode. The hubz and I are catching up on hulu. But basically what happens on the show is that Mel's teenage niece gets in an argument with her English teacher about her writing. He's very critical about her 200-word novel sample, maybe more than any teacher in high school should be. So in order to prove to him that her 200-word sample would extrapolate into a fabulous, life-changing novel, she decides to write it.

Before the end of the quarter (when the grading period ends).

That deadline is in a week and a half.

Not that a fifteen-year-old couldn't write a novel in that length of time! It's possible! It just reminded me of Nano and how difficult it is to keep a solid structure (at least for me) while I'm writing at that pace. Sure enough, our heroine ended up lying on her bed with a cough drop in her hair dreaming about the mess of note-cards and pages taped to her wall in random order while her teacher popped into the nightmare to remind her that she would fail, that she would never be a great writer and she should just give up.

In the show, her little brother, who has a stake in her happiness, helps her organize her thoughts so she can get all those wall-taped pages and note-cards into a massive pile resembling a manuscript.

I thought, How sweet! And then I thought, This is what I need.

I need a little brother to tell me I have a cough drop in my hair and ask me which came first, plot point A or plot point B. Everyone does.

I have a great critique group (see About Us tab above). But we all live in different places. Sometimes I wish I had somebody in my house who could look at my manuscript and point to the things that need to be fixed. Basically, I want someone else to do the really hard work of organizing my brilliant flashes of brilliance.

Sometimes my husband meets this need. I hope in the future, my sons will get in on the fun of telling me what works and doesn't in my middle grade or young adult projects. For now, organization is something I struggle with, especially when I've written something in a month or less.

Who's your little brother? Or how to do you keep the organizational demands of a novel from driving you to cough drops?


  1. My husband just did this for me the other night. It used to be my sister but then she added two little children to her family and we haven't been able to mesh since. I've been flying solo ever since (my critic group didn't pan out) so it was a real treat to explain what was going on and what was hanging me up - he got me moving again. :)

  2. Aine, that's awesome! It feels so good when your sounding board helps you work out what feels like an impossible knot. It's the best kind of teamwork.


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