I started Lazette Gifford’s 2 Year Novel course on the first week of January. I had purchased the course in 2007 and started using it for one of my many false starts, but then life happened. Since my 2017 resolution is to complete the first draft of a new novel (finally) I decided to dust my pdf file off and give it a go.
This course is designed to help create manageable, weekly goals that even the busiest writer can fit into their hectic schedule. Don’t believe me? Week 2’s assignment can be boiled down to: “What genre will this book be?” That’s it. Even I can reasonably get that done in a week. 😛
Why would a writer want to pick this course? For guidance. There are many reasons that writers don’t finish a book, but many more writers don’t even start writing and, from what I can tell, it’s because that hopeful author has no idea where or how to start or how to get to the end. They are usually handed a writing prompt, given a pat on the head, and shoo’d off to go start writing their magnum opus.
I don’t know about you, but that hasn’t resulted in a completed book for me yet.
I used to think I was a pantster: a writer that didn’t need a clear cut goal. I could just plop myself in front of a computer with an idea and all of the genius would come pouring out. There is a quote be E. L. Doctorow, from “Writer’s At Work: The Paris Review Interviews,” that pansters like to lean on:
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
There are plenty of published authors who write everything this way and it works for them. In fact, I think that, like driving somewhere at night in the fog, it probably works wonderfully for people who already know how to get where they are going. But if you have never been somewhere, have no GPS, no map, and no directions, and no inborn perfect sense of direction, how well do you think you’ll get somewhere if you can only see as far as your headlights? A lot of us get lost in broad daylight under those circumstances!
As far as I can tell, the people that this works for already have some innate sense of where their story is going and how to get there, even if they don’t realize it. After 17 years and only one (very confusing) book to show for it, I realize that I need a map. Maybe you do too. If driving by the seat of your pants hasn’t gotten you to your destination, maybe it’s time to try a different method (even if the idea of outlines makes your skin crawl).
There are a lot of different books on how to structure your novel, how to put together an outline, how to plot, etc. Lazette Gifford’s “2 Year Novel” is a course on how she puts all of these pieces together to get to a finished product. Like getting to the store, this is just one of many routes to the destination. But for someone who has no idea how to get to the store, any map is better than no map.
So that’s why I’m using this course: I have ideas, but haven’t started them because I don’t have a plan or a map. Pantsing hasn’t helped, so maybe plotting will. We’ll find out in 6-12 months.
Week 1 (Jan 1-8): Idea
I’ve decided to try working on a Selkie novel that’s been rattling around in the back of my head. Selkies are a type of faerie in European folklore that appear as seals that can shed their skin and take human form. Being captured by humans is pretty much the only thing they do. I’ve been wanting to write about Selkies for several years now: My English Capstone project was a short story about a Selkie.
I also wasted the rest of the week making an excel sheet to track what I need to do each week of the course, then how to cut that time in half, AND how to incorporate related assignments from other, unrelated resources into the mess.
Week 2 (Jan 9-15) : Genre
This is clearly a fantasy story. There could be elements of urban fantasy depending on when I set the story. There could also be elements of romance, if I feel like it.
Week 3 (Jan 16-22): Theme, symbolism
I’ve gone around and around and around on this one and there are multiple, conflicting themes that I could lean on. I honestly can’t pin one down at this stage. Theme has always been elusive for me (even in my literature classes I have a hard time pinning down themes). I think I need to know more about the characters and the plot before I can figure this out fully. That said, I did the assignment a couple of times but fully expect it to be thrown out later.
The first 5 weeks of this course are called “The Basics” for a reason. None of it is set in stone, it’s just to help create a general, basic, changeable idea out of thin air, if I had nothing to start with.
Week 4 (Jan 23-30): Conflict, goals
There are easily three different Selkie stories I want to explore at one point or another, which is probably added to my trouble with week 3. But I finally settled on one, and I identified two conflicts that she will have to encounter.
Week 5 (Jan 31-Feb 5): Setting
I’ve settled on a preliminary setting to start researching. Even though the Selkie mythology comes from the North Atlantic, I decided that I want to have the story take place in a Non-European local, which will mean research for the culture, the landscape, weather patterns, etc. I will also need to fabricate the Selkie culture from scratch, because I don’t want to have the lot of them be a bunch of pining prisoners.
So now it’s on to the Character portion of the course, weeks 6-13. I highly doubt I can get caught up to a double time schedule and be done with the first draft in 6 months at this point ( I need to be done with week 13 by February 13th… so… no), but I’ll see what I can do.