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Author: Subject: Out of plot, but not at 50,000 words
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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 05:55 PM
Out of plot, but not at 50,000 words


I started writing a novel on July 1 after reading 'No Plot, No Problem!' but only just signed up for this forum after seeing that it existed (I had assumed because I was working in July there wouldn't be anything going on, but I see I was wrong).

I have been writing genre fiction (mystery) and yesterday I reached the end of my plot. I'm a little bit behind schedule, so I'm currently at 36,800 words. The problem, of course, is that I have 13,000 words to go. I think I'm going to have to graft on a subplot as I can't really keep writing beyond the end of the story (that might work for a literary novel, but I can't see continuing a mystery after the bad guy has been identified and taken care of).

I find that I'm without ideas. I figure it should be something personal in the main character's life, but I'm not sure what I could add which could both fit in with the existing story and not require any rewriting. Does anyone have advice on where I can go from here? Has anyone dealt with this sort of a problem?
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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 06:49 PM


Eeew. Premature finish, huh? Suck.

So, subplot ideas, subplot ideas... Adding a romantic interest, or a complication to en existing love interest, is always good. It's a mystery? Well, a cop or a PI would have other cases, maybe some small thing on the side.

It is a tried and true method of mine for getting unstuck (At the end of the story or otherwise) to find another character and find out what they're doing. You can always tell from my rough drafts where I got frustrated and the words weren't coming- Out of the blue I'd start carrying on about a minor character. You may not use it, after you edit. But it will get your word count where it needs to be to win.





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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 07:27 PM


Remember, you can always work on something else if you want to. :)



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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 08:41 PM


I guess I'm in a similar situation. I know where I want to be at 50,000 words, but, uh, what happens between now and then? :D All the writing books talk about that, knowing how your book ends, but then, how do you figure out how long it's going to take to get there? How do you make sure you end up at the word count you want? Uhh...haven't figured that out yet. Maybe some day.

I've added a lot of scenes where my main character is just checking in on things. He's the ruler of a country, so, you know, you have to make sure everything's going all right, yeah? Really though, purple_ink_pen is right about the romance. Everyone loves it, they just like it dressed up different ways. Heck, I read a whole fantasy trilogy that was basically a Romeo and Juliet story, and it was great! If your MC does have a love interest, you could always get rid of him or her, death possible. Breakups of any kind always bring complications, and complications bring wordage.

Also, perhaps it doesn't just end by finding out who the killer is. Is there anything else that's still at stake? What are the consequences of the killer's actions? Excuse me for using the word 'killer', it's just an assumption I make. Way too much 'Murder, She Wrote'. And, are you sure you have the right person? I mean, absolutely sure? If you want to read a good mystery type story, read Ayn Rand's play Night of January 16th. She comes up with a great surprise. Think, though. Maybe you've got the wrong guy. Or, why did he do it?

Tell us a little more, and we can give better help.

BTW: I love 'No Plot, No Problem'. I've been following it this month, too. ;)




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 08:49 PM


Thanks for your suggestions. This should give me enough to make today's wordcount, at least :)

I can't use the small thing on the side because it's a cozy mystery (non-professional protagonist), but I could make her love life more complicated--although I don't think I can kill off the love interest as I've already got him in a mental sequel. Right now the boyfriend is almost always helpful and understanding, and they're never like that in real life. :P

thepianist2008, I pretty much tied up the lose ends with the two scenes I wrote which follow the killer being caught. It was one scene, and today I expanded on it to get a few hundred words. I'm pretty much out of possible suspects at this point (and the killer's confessed), but that does make me think maybe I could try to expand on one of the red herrings earlier on. What other sort of information could I give about the story which would be helpful? Being new at this sort of thing means I don't really know what's helpful and what isn't.

One thing I'm worried about with just sticking words in the middle (such as a two-page background description of a character) is that I know when I edit, it will all go away. This makes me concerned that the true length of the story is something like 25,000 words. I don't know if it's true for novels (this is my first attempt), but when I've written non-fiction articles or papers, or short stories, they tend to get much shorter with editing. That's also the reason why I don't want to work on something else (like the sequel). I want to be sure I get one full novel out of this.


[Edited on 2008-7-28 by Brownthumb]
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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 08:58 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by Brownthumb I don't know if it's true for novels (this is my first attempt), but when I've written non-fiction articles or papers, or short stories, they tend to get much shorter with editing.


Really? Mine always get longer...
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[*] posted on 7-27-2008 at 09:03 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by Chelle-Lynn Really? Mine always get longer...


That's what 'No Plot, No Problem' said as well. I just know that my non-fiction tends to get shorter and tighter unless I was missing a section on the first draft, and my short stories go the same way. It may be because I first started editing my work when I was writing columns for a school paper (before that I was a 'perfect first draft' sort of person). They were supposed to be 250 words and always started out at around 700. I made it a game to get them to exactly 250 words. The other alternative is that my default style of writing is just very verbose and wordy and redundant and repetitive...
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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 11:50 AM


try and just keep writing. Why did the guy do it? IS the dead guy really dead (you have to have atleast one dead guy, right?)



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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 12:00 PM


Quote:
I don't know if it's true for novels (this is my first attempt), but when I've written non-fiction articles or papers, or short stories, they tend to get much shorter with editing.


In On Writing, Stephen King says that the guideline given to him by a publisher that rejected one of his short stories is: 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%

I've never really paid attention to the numbers, but my final drafts tend to be shorter than my first drafts as well. The second draft of my Julno will probably be 30% shorter than the first, because there's at least five whole scenes I want to cut.




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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 12:05 PM


Quote:
The second draft of my Julno will probably be 30% shorter than the first, because there's at least five whole scenes I want to cut.


Just don't cut out a demonic possession or a lightning strike. It looks like you could spare a tornado, though.
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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 12:29 PM


I can definitely sympathize. I'm only 2000 words short of the 50K goal, and the main novel I was working on just ended. (That's what I get for writing a middle grade novel.) I'm just pulling out random stuff and writing until I reach the goal. Like others have said, that's the beauty of JulNoWriMo as opposed to NaNoWriMo.
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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 01:02 PM


*Shrug* King's formula is great, but there is a point I'd like to make- these are NaNovels. The time compression means that (For me, at least) I cut scenes short, sometimes describing in three or four words something very important to the story. My second draft always grows because I've been in such a hurry I've left things stetchy.

The third draft is where I pull out the editing pen, and people think I'm bleeding on the paper. ;)





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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 01:16 PM


Quote:
Just don't cut out a demonic possession or a lightning strike. It looks like you could spare a tornado, though.


I didn't realize when I made my MCs tornado chasers that writing about the weather is about the most boring activity one can engage in. There are only so many ways to describe clouds.

Quote:
The time compression means that (For me, at least) I cut scenes short,


See, I do the exact opposite--dragging scenes out to up my word count. Different strokes, I guess.

[Edited on 7-28-2008 by amandalynn125]




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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 02:50 PM


purple_ink_pen - Stephen King explicitly says he writes 2000 words a day - this is faster than our Nano pace! Also, Holly Lisle writes at the same pace! So, as far as people who are selling books goes, we're still writing too slow. If they can expect to get something out of writing at that pace, we should do fine at 1613 words/day.

brownthumb - since we're probably not going to read your novel anyway, a plot summary would be helpful for determining what could be added to give it more length. Short descriptions of your main characters might help too. What's the murder weapon, and where was it found? When, why, and how was the murder committed? There's nothing that isn't helpful. Also, I haven't met anyone around here who's published more than three novels, and I myself only have two rejection slips for short stories, so we're all newbies here, in the big scheme of things.

BTW, I've been through 'On Writing' three times, because it's full of good advice, and because Stephen King's writing is just so darn good I love reading it even though it's not a story. He says in there that every story is collapsible to some degree, and the formula ( 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10% ) comes from an editor where he sent one of his stories. He said that once he started using that formula, he started getting personal notes back from editors. Good thing, right?

Lastly, if you're looking to get a good 'novel' out of your story, you might want to rethink things. 50,000 is the base word count for this month because Chris Baty happened to pick up a short book as a model, like Of Mice and Men or A Brave New World. True genre fiction has lengths which you can find out on various sites. I like www.fictionfactor.com. My genre, fantasy, is particularly annoying because the word count runs around 125,000 words, and if we follow King's formula, that means I'd have to write 138,889 words for the first draft. That's why I don't plan to complete this novel until the end of September.

Read No Plot? No Problem and On Writing. Even if you decided that you don't really want to get published, the books are a whole lot of fun to read. Both writers have very personable styles that sound true to person. I love both books and read both this month.




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 7-28-2008 at 04:41 PM


thepianist2008 - I've read both of the books you recommended--'No Plot, No Problem' in June (it was a library book so I had to read ahead), and 'On Writing' last summer. I've also read a few books which were specifically related to writing mysteries, and most of them had a few good ideas.

As far as length goes, cozy mysteries tend to be snack-sized (lightweight and short--I can read one in a day easily). I'm not sure of the actual length--if I were serious about it, I suppose I'd need to look at publisher's guidelines. I don't think I'm that serious, but I'm not exactly un-serious, either...y'know? I wouldn't bother to write it if I didn't have plans to revise it, and a hope that something could come of it, but I don't exactly expect it to work out that way.

And now for a short description of the story thus far:
The MC (Gabrielle) is a programmer living in Seattle. She finds out that her much-loathed ex-boyfriend (Kurt) has died of what could be an overdose or could be murder. After being interviewed by the police, she is certain that she is a suspect and decides to find out more about what happened with the help of her current boyfriend (George), and, to a lesser extent, her friend (Jin). Her possible suspects are the guy's girlfriend (Päivi), the woman he was cheating on his girlfriend with (Amber), and a headhunter who seems to have a side job as a drug dealer (Virginia). Things are complicated when the corpse of her high school enemy (Henry) is also found. Eventually she finds proof that Virginia is involved in all sorts of illegal activities, and reports this to the police, only to find out that they have already taken Virginia into custody. Later the same day Amber is taken to the hospital for an overdose. Believing the mystery is solved, Gabrielle goes to Jin's home for dinner and is nearly killed when she discovers evidence linking Jin to the crimes.

Of course there are other plot twists, but this is the bare-bones summary--I'm quite sure you don't want to read more, unless you want to seriously procrastinate on your own work!

And an answer to the questions about the murders:
The murder weapon is percocet mixed with a bit of cocaine (the victims believe they are taking coke). Jin made the substitution a few days in advance and therefore wasn't present when the victims died. She is obsessed with Amber, who is her ex-girlfriend, and killed Kurt in order to remove his negative influence from Amber's life. Henry had the misfortune to share drugs with Kurt. Amber was given a much smaller (non-fatal) dose because Jin wanted the opportunity to nurse her back to health.

The direction I've been taking things since my first post:
Lately I've been busy adding a bit of a personal life to Gabrielle. This mostly consists of fleshing out her relationship with George and its problems (he's sometimes impotent, and she's unable to fully commit because of her experiences with Kurt) and including flashbacks of her relationship with Kurt to explain why she has come to hate him so much. This material should supply today's quota. After that I am thinking of enlarging the role of George's mother, who doesn't like Gabrielle but still wants grandchildren. I also want to drag out the ending a bit. I may expand a little bit on her growing friendship with one of her co-workers, Rajiv. That may make tomorrow's quota...so with my current ideas, I think I'm about 6,000 words short now.
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[*] posted on 7-29-2008 at 09:10 AM


Warning: I'm going to write as I think here, so if it's a little fragmented, well, sorry.

First thought: Your plot does look snack-sized, and that's okay. It's like the written equivalent of a Murder, She Wrote, and I personally love that show. You might want to look into novellas, which, I think, are more common in the mystery genre than any other. I noticed that your plot is very centered, like a cozy, meaning that it involves very few people, and they're all close-knit, high-school, friends. In many of the larger mysteries I've seen, there's a large-scale problem to back the small crime that's been committed. In these cases, our investigation into one small murder reveals a much bigger scheme of some organization, like a mafia. Your story doesn't seem to have a grand scheme. That's fine.

One of the wonders of JulNoWriMo is that the 50,000 words don't all have to be on the same project. I would feel safe writing 'The End' and starting on a new project. You are going to continue writing after this month, aren't you? As Stephen King might say, your fossil turned out a little bit smaller than expected, but it's still a nice one.

So, I'd say you should start something else. The heat of a new project always manages to rack up words anyway, so you can easily meet the month's goal that way. You probably know the mystery genre better than I do, so if you want to sell it, I couldn't really give you any help there, other than a critique.




...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 7-29-2008 at 10:49 AM


Thank you for your thoughts, thepianist.

I am indeed trying to write a cozy mystery. Although it doesn't take place in a small town, it does involve a rather small group of people who are part of a smaller community within the larger city. You've correctly identified it as lacking a grand scheme; I do indeed want to write something light and fluffy.

Quote:

One of the wonders of JulNoWriMo is that the 50,000 words don't all have to be on the same project. I would feel safe writing 'The End' and starting on a new project. You are going to continue writing after this month, aren't you? As Stephen King might say, your fossil turned out a little bit smaller than expected, but it's still a nice one.


At the end of this month I expect I'm going to have to turn back to the non-fiction article which is awaiting revision (I'd planned to keep my inner editor busy with that while I was writing my story, but I'm only getting feedback now), and once that's out of the way, I'll have to start on my thesis. I'm hoping that can be combined with revising this story. So the short answer is no, I don't plan to continue writing fiction after this month, at least not for a while, but I'd like to do this again when I don't have a lot of other writing to do.

I'm still reluctant to start a new project. It feels a bit like cheating (I'm drawn to the original NaMo goal more than the idea of just putting out 50,000 words). Perhaps a bigger stumbling block is that until now the longest story I wrote was probably 15 pages (longest non-fiction was about 30 pages) and I want to see if I'm able to sustain something longer. Maybe the answer is 'no' but I think I'm going to keep trying to graft on small details and hope that can carry me through the last 7,000 or so words.

Your advice is quite logical, I'm just not very reasonable right now ;)
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[*] posted on 7-29-2008 at 11:41 AM


One small thing. I see the purpose of this month not as putting out 50,000 words, but as getting myself in the habit of writing. I know if I want to do this, especially with fantasy novels, I'm going to have to write every day. It's tough, but having a support group and a goal helps so much. Learning to write consistently is the key.



...and he can do that, and she can do this, and he can react like that, and she can slap him, and he can yell at her, and then a dead body can come crashing through the ceiling... yippee! XD
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[*] posted on 7-29-2008 at 11:56 AM


For me the goal has been to produce a piece of work longer than anything I've done before--a book, rather than a short story. I guess we're all picking up different skills; perhaps some day in the future I'll be ready to gain the skill of writing at a regular pace. This month sure hasn't been a lesson in that for me, not with 10 days of 0 output.
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