Way back in October, I introduced the plan for my 2011 NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) project, which I refer to as Booker’s Seven. Christopher Booker suggested that there are “Seven Basic Plots” from which all stories are built. So, with a group of 6 other writers, I have embarked on a project to write seven stories each, each story following one of the plots and with a few connecting features between our versions. So my “Robin Hood” story is a Quest, someone else will be writing it as comedy, someone else as a tragedy, etc. To further link us, everyone’s Robin Hood story will have a main character called Robin and a first line of “It was a dark and stormy night.” The other story ideas have a set main character and first line too.
Here’s my list of stories, along with their progress so far.
|Colonisation||Overcoming the monster||To be Edited|
|Wild West||Voyage / Return||In Editing|
|Concert||Tragedy||Awaiting Beta Readers|
|Road Trip||Comedy||Awaiting Beta Readers|
|Stargazing||Rebirth||Awaiting Beta Readers|
|Robin Hood||Quest||With Stage 2 Beta readers|
|Phoenix||Rags to Riches||With Stage 2 Beta readers|
Which brings me to a more general point about writing. Leonardo Da Vinci said “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Paul Valery said the same about poems a few centuries later. I am far from the first to apply it to writing stories.
Colonisation is about as raw as my writing gets. In spite of the admonishment of nano HQ, I can’t write blind – if I make a mistake while writing, I’ll got back and correct it. If I turn up a load of complete nonsense in a word war, I’ll delete it there and then and rewrite that paragraph. But I don’t go back and proof read until after the fact, so I haven’t touched Colonisation since November.
Wild West I have read through once and dealt with the typos and the silly spacing and a few bits of glaringly bad wording, but I still want to go through it at least once more before before anyone else sees it. I want to balance out the plot better, flesh out a few characters and deal with the fact that the POV is all over the place.
Then it can become like Concert, Road Trip and Stargazing, ready for a first few critical and conscious readers to look over it. These three are waiting because my first beta readers tend to be my amazing writing group, and I can only take so much of their attention! They are 100% worth waiting for. They don’t pull the punches, they are not afraid to tell me something is dreadful, that they didn’t understand it, or that huge chunks need to be ripped out and pissed all over! And to me, that’s exactly what Betas are for.
Once they’ve done that, my editing process starts again. I have to go back over the piece and really hone it before sending it out to slightly gentler Stage 2 beta readers. Hopefully these guys won’t find anything to hate, or if they do, it will be something I’ve decided it’s worth having readers hate. But they still have a crucial role in critiquing, because they are my last line of defence before I abandon the story and send it out into the world.
In reality, of course, they hopefully will find something(s) to fiddle with, and there are a few ideas in my head I’m still working through. Phoenix, for example, still doesn’t sit quite right with me, so when I get it back from my Stage 2’s, I’ll probably tweak it again and find some Stage 3’s to send it to. But that’s my right as the author, NOT to abandon it!
Those of you who’ve stuck around for a while are probably wondering about my previous NaNo projects, the novels: Phoenix Fire and Eric. PF has in theory gone through Betas and is ready to abandon, but actually I think it needs me to pick it up as if it’s a first draft, and start editing from scratch. I certainly aim to do so before I try to publish it. Eric is not as far along, I’ve finished the phase 1 editing, but now I need to start moving chapters around and filling out plot points. He’s at the same stage as the Wild West, but whereas a 7,000 word story can go through the whole process in just over a week, a novel takes disproportionately longer, and Eric is more than 10 times the length of Wild West!
When I’ve finally abandoned Booker’s Seven though, I’ll be right back on his tail. I love Eric, and I really want to get him to the stage where I can share him, first with the trusted few, and then one day, I hope, with the world.