hello everybody
ima try to keep this tight

this wont be of use to folk who are already working
on novels and have their own systems

and everybody does it differently, this is how i do it

you can try it and see if it works for you, or try pieces of it
eventually you develop your own system through trial and error

but this how i take a novel from idea to manuscript

the impo thing is to get that 1st draft, w/o that
you have nothing to work with

what makes it difficult is that its inevitably bad
so folk stop working on it because its bad but then it never gets done

1st step is just get it out of your head and on paper
most writers just barrel through that initial draft

treat it as a coherent whole, do the whole thing
so its not uneven in its development,so it grows wholistically

and if you spend months cleaning up individual chapters you
will often find as the novel evolves that these chapters are no
longer in the work and youve wasted months

i generally clock hours in the earlier life of a manuscript
when you are putting in long contemplative hours for few pages

and later in manuscript when its rewrite i count pages
within the hours, x pages a day or week as the case may be

but you have two goals in play:
to get the manuscript done and to be a better writer

so you have two threads going, x pages a day toward manuscript
and choosing a chapter, most often the 1st, that you do over and
over (and workshop) as you try to become a better craftsperson

some chapters you experiment on as you do the manuscript
some chapters you use to polish your style and develop your voice

two strands interwoven

at every stage of this pursuit of literary mastery you run up
on psychological blocks that will keep you from doing what
you have to do to make this dream real

ive been in this business some 30 odd years now
and ive seen thousands of wouldbe writers and only
a few, a hundred or so, made the cut

most of them just never got serious about their daily production
never got over the hump and built their lives around production

thats what divide the writers from the dilettantes

so anyway, doing the outline
first you choose the timeframe of the novel

got two lines, the storyline and the plotline

the storyline is the chronological progression, the basic story
the plotline is a progression deformed for dramatic or metaphorical purposes

so choose the timeframe, be specific as possible

one thing to keep in mind about building a novel is that you
have a million decisions to make, just make them, keep pushing

you can always change them later but dont let them hang you up now
make the decision, trust yourself, trust the process

after choosing the timeframe of your story
set up about 20 movements: for instance:

note your opening scene as #1
your closing scene (you have some idea) as #20
place the scenes you know will be in the novel approx where they go

1 janie as adolescent hanging on fence watching
4 marrying joe starks
7 starks dies
9 meets teacake on the front porch
20 janie returns to town transformed - walking by, people talking

then all you do is fill in the holes w/logical progressions
fiddle with this until it makes pure novel/dramatic/narrative sense to you

20 progressions is arbitrary, as many as you like

but be specific, give time place and setting, what primary char doing
notes on metaphorical systems in play

then try alternative structures playing with plotline
for dramatic and metaphorical purposes

now is when you really playing with the metaphorical structures
the quality of your metaphorical structures will det literary respect

you gotta go deep, play as many levels as you can
everything you can control control it

of course you reading for licks and constantly studying the craft
and lit crit so as to constantly grow as a professional

you patient and you give it the years it takes as penda once said
to move from mediocre to good to great

then you decide on a deadline, (you live by self imposed deadlines now)
that you can reasonably get a draft done by x time

considering whats going on in your life and how many hours you can
squeeze out of your day for daily production, one hour, two, three

got to get it somewhere somehow
as much as your life can stand or you arent serious about this

you wasting your time and mine

you decide roughly what pagecount you want this novel to be
does a 200 pager feel right to you, or do you see 300, 350

fat 400 plus pagers work against you sellng it but hey if thats
what you feeling you go for what you know in your heart

you determine how many pages a day or a week will get you
to that point with manuscript in hand

lets say you got a 6 month window of production
where you can clock 2 hours a day

lets say you thinking 200 page novel/manuscript

that first draft you thinking i dont care what it looks like
i just want a draft

because it will be bad, first drafts are inevitably shallow
its inevitable but some folk let that stop them from doing it

and if you dont do that bad first draft you dont have anything
to rewrite into a decent draft and eventually a good one

its one of those pyschological blocks that some people never get past
you just close down your judgment and clock those pages

i always schedule days off in a production push because if i
dont i will take them anyway

but if all i need are 200 pages in say 5 months
thats 40 pages a month, 10 pages a week, 2 a day
lets say 3 then i can take a couple of days off

i dont look at the 200, i just look at the 3 a day i
have to do, everyday i know i got to get 3 pages done to feel serious about this thing
i have chosen to give my life and dreams to

and if i have 20 movements all i got to do is 10 pages
per movement

open up those sentences to paragraphss delineating whats happening in that section and
open those up to pages and eventually chapters/movements

clocking hours mean just sit down and type whatever is in my head on
that segment and trust myself that it will eventually be good work, trust the process

even if it stinks to high heaven when i write it
i trust the process, that i will be able to rewrite it until it works

then once its done (i do not miss deadlines (and i do not abandon projects)

i put it down, let it get cold and then start all over - i will go into that process later post
(2nd drafts: got the 1st draft, now what)

the thing about working off outlines is that they are written in water
everyday that you work on your novel it evolves

and you follow it whereever it takes you

you let it evolve, you let it breath and what you eventually come up with is
so far beyond what you concepted its magical

thats what gives literature its power
letting that concept breath and evolve

so you dont try to do much more than follow the
rough outline of your novel and when new ideas and
possibilities pop up you follow them and see where they lead

and eventually you write yourself to point where you
dont know what you have anymore or where you are or anything

thats when i stop and redo the outline to reflect my
latest understanding of what im doing

but i dont stop my daily forward progression
for nothing, life will constantly be telling you you dont have time
you got to be taking care of real business

but you tell life no im taking time for this, this is for me

sometimes you have a block on a certain segment
because the internal computer hasnt fully processed it yet

you find yourself stuck and not producing
you dont stay stuck, you struggle with it until you accept its hopeless

then you switch over to some section you are ready to work on
you have a whole outline of material to choose from

and by the time youve finished struggling with that section
the other one is probably ready to flow, your internal computer
has been working out the kinks

okay ima close this down, its long enough
ima post it up in the files section

feel a little awkward doing this but i got this idea to do that class online
and this what we did the first day, and folk have asked me about the process
of getting a novel going, of working off an outline

my approach to outlines compliment of babagriot fred hudson
of the frederick douglas creative arts center - fred was hell on outlines

for those who dont need this info or find it not useful for their style my apologies for its length

for those who are starting new novels i expect you to be on it
i will be asking about your deadlines, your production, your pagecounts

assuming you want a little pushing
if not thats cool too

i will label the lit hoodoo posts as such so folk who arent interested can pass them by,
14 classes 14 posts

i will be making all kinds of speculative statements as both process and content will
be on the fly, i am doing this as a learning thing myself,

will be commenting on mumbo jumbo discussion next week,
also novel theory, structure and narrative strategies

and i hope i am not the only one
dialoguing craft and professionalism

again i encourage folk to open and maintain threads
that will contribute to our development as literary professionals

and anything you want to challenge
correct or emphasize in what i got to say feel free

thats how we all grow

what with all these mfa programs these days
the bar of craft expertise and professionalism

being raised every day
and blackfolk being left behind as always

and we know you want to make it as a writer
or anything else
you got to be twice as good as anybody else

so many of us in the tradition self trained
we got to take our training up a notch

i would that new ren literary training
be comparable with any training in the country

that we turn out folk
ready to rumble

and 2nd to none

who understand the power of the word
who are adept and sophisticated in its application

who view this as a sacred calling
this thing we do and plan to do it

better than anybody else could
or does

the true value of any literary school
are the works it produces, the legacies
it leaves

from new ren
i expect works of wonder

in the line of o killens



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