Thoughts on this year’s #3daynovel and how to improve next year

After I hit my 30,000 words last night, I stopped working on Prime Time for the weekend. Not because it was finished, but because I knew I was at an impasse.

Prime TimeThis year, though I met my 30,000-word goal for my 3-day novel, I don’t really feel like I “won” the contest.

Part of that is because I didn’t officially enter (i.e. pay the contest organizers $50 for a shot at the grand prize) because I’m pre-selling copies at Inkshares, and part of that is because I’m not actually done writing this book yet.

You see, when I wrote my 3-day novel back in 2011, I had a much more tightly plotted outline. That helped a lot. But I also had a much smaller cast of characters.

Prime Time currently has 12 characters (6 participants in the reality show, 3 experts, 2 producers and a studio exec). It’s an ensemble piece, as they say in show biz, because there’s no one “main character,” yet every character has an important role to play.

As I was writing the book, I realized that the whole reason my first 3-day novel worked so well was precisely because I was following a script – an action/adventure quest script, which has a very clear goal and Hero’s Journey to take you through the twists and turns. Though quests stories are not always easy to write, they are a pretty basic formula, and work great for novels you need to write in a short period of time.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view) Prime Time is not a quest book, and therefore doesn’t follow the same formula. I’m sure there is a script for an ensemble piece, but I haven’t actually looked that up and figured out where my characters fit into the formula.

Actually, writing the previous sentence, I just Googled “plotting an ensemble piece” and found this excellent breakdown by Linda Cowgill, as well as this apt description on TV Tropes, which notes that ensemble pieces work best as episodes – which is essentially the whole premise of Prime Time, since it’s based on the concept of reality TV.

Obviously, writing a bunch of episodes is going to take a lot more time than writing a single plot arc, focusing on one main character!

I’m not sure why this didn’t ring any alarm bells while I was planning my outline, but I think I just figured I would be able to write a few scenes with each character straight from start to finish, and then cut them up like a film editor rearranging things “in post,” as they say.

WRONG!

Number one, I’m not a film editor. And number two, each of these characters has their own story arc, which means each character’s story is essentially it’s own mini-novel.

Viewed from that perspective, I would need at least three 3-day weekends to write about my three main couples (combining each twosome’s two individual story arcs into a single “couples” arc, times three), with the experts, producers and studio exec as supporting roles.

Whoops!

So, since I essentially ended up sacrificing my need to develop three separate storylines to my need to hit a 30K word count this weekend, I’m still not done with the first draft of this novel, and that is a little frustrating.

But we all learn from our mistakes, hopefully, and next year if I decide to take on another 3-day novel, I will definitely go back to the tried-and-true Hero’s Quest method. I’m sure my ninjas from Austin could use a little action…

Anyway, it wasn’t a total bust, since I did get many good scenes down on paper, and I’ve got quite a steamy situation with two of my reality TV stars that requires more attention.

I also learned the following things:

  1. When in need of a quick wake-up/pick-me-up, try swishing minty mouthwash for 30 seconds as directed on the label. You never read the label before, did you? It’s that 30 second span of swishing that really does the trick, although the mintiness is always a nice byproduct. Especially if you’ve been drinking too much coffee.
  2. I can bust out a hell of a lot of sex scenes under pressure. Trying to bust out comedic scenes under pressure, however, is not really my forte. Once an erotica writer, always an erotica writer, I suppose.
  3. Despite the fact that I am not intending to include most of those sex scenes, I do think they provide some interesting insights into my characters, and once I cut the intimate details and pull the old Hollywood “fade to black” trick, I think I’ve actually got some smooth moves happening here.
  4. I hate weddings, as mentioned in my previous post. Attending weddings in person is kind of fun if you’re a guest (cake! champagne! seeing friends and family! terrible dance moves while drunk!). Trying to “plan” weddings in a book is definitely NOT fun. Deciding the center my book around a big reveal that takes place at a wedding (or, more accurately, THREE weddings)? Kind of a dumb move on my part.
  5. Despite the fact that I hate writing wedding scenes, I do enjoy watching them in other people’s movies, but the caveat is that I usually prefer super weird wedding scenes, not super traditional ones. The Princess Bride‘s wedding scene is so excellent because it perverts the traditional wedding, both with the Impressive Clergyman’s speech and with Prince Humperdink’s exhortations to “skip to the end!” that actually nullify the entire legal bond, which is the actual point of a wedding.
  6. Twue wuv doesn’t exist on reality shows.
  7. Or does it?

If you’re curious to follow along as I continue writing this draft throughout the next few weeks and months, please follow me on Inkshares, and if you’re really excited to see how the whole thing turns out, pre-order a copy!

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