Novelit Project

Like all living things, writers must exercise their muscles.

Introduction

Muscles must be targeted, stretched and conditioned to reach an athletic goal. In this aspect, writers are no different from athletes: for they, too, can become sloth and lazy. The difference is that it is not the muscle which atrophies, but the writing ability over the course of slothful time.

However, in a related argument, exercise in excess can also damage the muscle, and spoil the chance of reaching that athletic goal. Again, writing is no different – and while there is merit and purpose in writing for the sake of writing, a writer must also pause, target and condition specific writing muscles to better their craft. Quantity of word is an aerobic exercise, but quality of word can be both aerobic and anaerobic: yes, you focus on specific portions, but do so to form a much careful eye, and better editing habit for the future.

Novelit Project

The Novelit Project was conceived and designed to meet the writer’s exercise requirement, but with a qualitative twist. Practice makes perfect is and oft-debated phrase when it comes to its accuracy and helpfulness, but practice makes better is the reigning maxim of this project. The goal is not perfection, for writing is an eternal learning process from your first year of literacy, to your final year of holding a pen.

In that spirit, the project aims to make writers exercise their writing skills daily – or at the very least, weekly or monthly –  therefore keeping their skills sharpened and put to good use. However, the intent is not to write gratuitous amounts of words, there are other efforts designed to exercise that exact muscle, and there is no need for more. No – the intent is to write snippets, tidbits or post smaller portions of larger works to share, to experiment and minutely tweak upon for the writer’s writing and editing benefit.

The Rules

The rules are simple, but you must personally choose your goal and pace, like any other exercise regime:

1. Choose your target muscle, or writing goal. Here are some examples:

“I want to better master spelling and grammar.”

“I want to achieve better sentence flow.”

“I want to improve my ability to write dialogue.”

“I want to write better scene or character descriptions.”

“I want to better master the consistency and writing for [insert character].”

“I want to better edit a large work, starting with smaller parts.”

Note: the keyword is “better,” not perfect! The goal is yours to set, and for the sake of communicating to participants new and old, include your goal at the beginning of each novelit post. Your goal can change with each post, or become more specific… “this from is a larger work, and I post a small portion of it this week. What I’m aiming for here is a [insert specific narrative tone]. Is it a hit or miss?”

2. Pick your novelit writing pace.

  • Daily. Once a day, between the hours of 12 a.m. and 12 a.m., you must write.
  • Weekly. Once a week, between Sunday 12 a.m. of the week’s beginning and Sunday 12 a.m. of the week’s end, you must write.
  • Monthly. Once a month, between the calendar date of the 1st and the final calendar date of the 28th, 29th, 30th or 31st, you must write.

3. Then immediately following your novelit, provide the word count and pose a question to your fellow novelit writers. Some examples: “what do you think? How does [insert literary term or specific portion] work?” Any question you wish to pose, pose it, and let fellow novelit writers know if you are open to other criticism, or are looking for other specific things.

4. Each Sunday, make your mark here. I will make a Novelit Project Call-to-Order post each Sunday, and call for any novelits written during the full week. If you are a daily noveliter, link your fellows to each of your novelits. If you are a weekly noveliter, post your one weekly exercise. If you are a monthly noveliter, come in and let your fellows know of your progress. Then follow your fellows’ novelits, let them share their craft with you.

As for when to post your novelit on Sunday, there is no specific deadline. As a writer, I understand that we lose track of time while in that writing phase, and the hours of the day and night are not as stringently kept as society ardently suggests. So simply post your novelit sometime between 12 a.m. Sunday, and 12 a.m. Monday, whenever you have the chance to sit at that computer of yours and connect to the Internet.

5. Accept and give suggestions or constructive criticism graciously. Both criticism and mistakes are a humbling pie, but only the first bite should be sour, the rest should taste only bittersweet. Writers make mistakes, the Novelit Project is based upon these perceived mistakes and shortcomings. Enter with that expectation, and never expect absolute perfection.

Questions to Answer

Write? You ask.

Yes –  you must write. You may be a poet, a crafter of short prose, a novelist. In short, you are a writer, you awake in the morning and feel that spark. You lie awake at night with energy that cannot sleep. A novelit is meant to funnel that drive, and exercise it in a pointed manner, it does not discriminate between writing genres, fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose. If you have that spark, and an inclination to both exercise and fine-tune, then the Novelit Project is for you.

What is a novelit, exactly? You ask.

The idea of novelit is that your writing sample can be small. Very small. In fact, the project sets forth a minimum limit of 10 words, a maximum of 1,000. The key is choosing the pace that you as a writer can keep up in both quantity as well as quality of writing. Grammar, punctuation, clarity, tone, rhythm, characterization… all those literary terms and nuances you must practice while participating in the project, and practice well. Despite the tiny length of a novelit, think of yourself as using a scalpel, or fine-tipped pen. Be prepared to use those tools well, and accept the scalpel of others who provide it.

What’s this? You might ask. 10 words is so little, 1,000 seems much, or not enough!

Perhaps. But that is not the point. The word minimums and maximums are simply guidelines to make you, the writer, keep up your own pace. The word count is a small rule to enforce in comparison to the daily, weekly or monthly regime you choose to take on. Remember – a novelit stresses quality. Perhaps you post a novelit of a larger work – a chapter, partial chapter, or perhaps even a moment in fictional time when you introduce an important character. You share your novelit and ask: “fellow writers, what do you see? Did the writing I intended become what you comprehended?”

Should I be concerned with quality, or is it quick words on a page?

Yes, quality. That is the kicker – there are some efforts that focus on quantity, not quality. Those efforts are integral to the writing process, but not solitary. The two real challenge of these project is to keep up the pace, and keep up the quality of work. That is why you are the one who chooses your writing pace, for it is you who knows your strengths and limitations. If you do not know them – experiment here, and find where those limitations begin, and strengths truly shine.

But what to write about? You ask, and a fair question.

Novelit was coined from “novel” and the first three letters of “little.” While I myself readily admit to a fixation on novel writing, fellow writers may prefer poems, short stories or other forms of prose. With that in mind, despite what the word suggests, simply write or post a tidbit that pleases you, and you feel the need to share with others.

Let me explain, and I do so in hope that I find a connection to my fellow writers: write something that creates that spark, that inner excitement, that energy that makes you lift your gaze from the page and see everything around you in sharpened color. An idea so tumultuous that when you first conceive it, your heart races – and if you manage to jot it on paper or on a keyboard before that racing wanes, you look over it and find that your writing preserved that same sense of excitement.

That is what you write. A tidbit, a novelit – a moment of world observation, perhaps a character description, perhaps a turning point of dialogue, or poignant part of some larger work that you wish to share with others. It is all shared in good company, and with the question: “what do you think, brother, sister writer? Did what I want hit its mark?

Conclusion

More questions? Ask. This project is still in its beginning stages, and oftentimes theory is thoroughly tweaked as it translates into the world of practice. More eyes means more chance to pick out what lacks.

Start date of the Novelit Project is Sunday, January 30th. The first Novelit mission: sign-ups and introductions.

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8 responses to “Novelit Project

  1. Pingback: Novelit #1 | A Thinner Pen

  2. Interesting concept. Two questions (three, really).

    1) “share tiny scraps of their novels in a one-paragraph format that will satisfy each author’s need of not spoiling their own content.” Not sure what this means.

    2) “The goal is to test each author’s skill in crafting their novel paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, and pit their writing strength against others within their craft.” Sounds like a competition, but I’m not sure what the basis for scoring would be.

    3) Like you, I wonder about length. A Hemingway paragraph might be a couple of sentences. A Henry James paragraph might be several pages (and maybe still just a couple of sentences).

    4) Also, I guess I’m confused by “future authors.” People who aren’t authors yet?

    Sorry so many questions.

  3. Excellent questions, Anthony. Thank you for dissecting the idea piece-by-piece.

    1) Perhaps this is a malady solely suffered by myself, but I’d like to think that other authors – both current and future – share: for an unpublished work, you don’t want to give away too much, and yet you still wish to share. To show off, or for feedback, or simply to publicly jot down a few lines that struck you in a moment of inspiration while you go about mundane things. To publish a tiny snippet of a larger work you feel pride over, and wish to share – that is the overall intent. It is a fun concept, but the details are very much lacking on my part.

    2) No competition, except for what fellow authors (current and future) like and dislike. I am in no personal position to judge, but I do enjoy sharing and listening to those who share, too.

    3) Details! Length is to be decided. You are absolutely correct that the idea of a paragraph is a flimsily-defined thing, as evidenced by the authors you mentioned. It is something that I contemplate in my spare time, which is unfortunately rare. Perhaps I wish for a quick and simple lightning bolt answer, but age tells me that few things are so clear cut and simple to define. Experimentation is due…

    4) Future authors, it is an odd phrase and brushes by many things. For one, to be published is a scary as well as hopeful venture, and not all quite make it. To say “future author” seems to give some sort of guarantee that in the future, yes – you will be an author. Then again – why not? Have no fear, and charge forth. Connect with fellow authors (let us just group the word and its many parts into a single classification, despite the published and unpublished, the accomplished and the hopefuls) and write what makes that part of your mind twinkle, and heart race with excitement.

    Thank you for the analyzation. Please do it again in the future, and mercilessly. Hold nothing back, my friend.

  4. I definitely agree about sharing. I’ve been an amateur fiction writer for some 40 years now, and I’ve been sharing my writing online since 1990 (on the BBSs, and then on the web). I guess what I didn’t immediately “get” was the spoiler question, though it makes perfect sense. I publish (online) pretty much as I write, so there’s nothing to spoil, but I know most don’t work that way.

    I know what you mean about the hesitation to call yourself an author or a writer. As an amateur, I’m always hesitant around some of my friends who are professional, long-published, and sometimes prize-winning. They’ve earned the right to look down on me if I call myself an author, so I try not to give them the opportunity. 🙂

  5. i love it 🙂 i get what you mean. i want to share part of my work and get it criticized before i move on. i would like the people around me (family&friends) to do it.. but they aren’t really critics and i dont want to show up at the door step of a critic after every page that i write.. so whenever you plan on starting novelit.. count me in 🙂

  6. Interesting concept. I think this could be a nice alternative to NaNoWriMo, by encouraging quality, not quantity.

    I’m so used to speed-writing during November, sometimes I forget that it’s not all about word count.

    Let me know when this starts!

    • @rashmikamath, and Aloha: I most definitely will, I’ve begun shaking off the cobwebs and delay on the project specifics, and this page will be shined anew. The focus is more on quality, which is another step (and a multi-faceted one) in writing that can never be forgotten.

  7. question: where do i sign-up???

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