As many of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month: Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.
Some may say that phrase is quite literal, that we abandon literature. I’m sure there are NaNo novels for which that is true, but is is not true for mine, because I’m a damn good writer. (And a lot of other Wrimos are as well.)
This year, I actually planned. I wrote an outline. I figured out the First Plot Point, the Mid Plot Point, and the Second Plot Point. I wrote an overarching vision for my story. I came up with a partial Beat Sheet, outlining the scenes I would write and the missions they had. (Thanks to Larry Brooks at StoryFix.com for his 30 posts on how to outline your NaNo novel. I found many of his tips useful.)
At midnight on the first of November I started writing with my fellow Nanaimo-Wrimos at our Tim Horton’s kick-off party. In the two hours at Timmy’s and the three hours when I got home, I wrote 3,331 words of my novel. (I was planning on sleeping as soon as I got home, but someone at Timmy’s gave me a coffee instead of a hot chocolate.) I decided sleep was the better part of valor at that point, and when I woke up later that day I rounded off my day’s word count at 5,560. My goal today is 10K.
You know what happened? I followed my outline…loosely. I found as I wrote, other things cropped up, and I ended up adding them into the story quite nicely. My main character’s best friend showed up in Chapter 1, instead of Chapter 3 as I had planned. Which meant I had to actually figure out the right name for him before moving on. I had been tossing around name ideas (I’m a writer who can’t write main characters without the exact right names, because I believe your name is such an integral part of your being that to write a character without a name is like writing one without a soul) before starting, but had not been able to settle on anything. I figured, no big deal, I’m not introducing him till Chapter 3 or so, so I can figure out a name before then. Well, he had other ideas.
A friend of mine helped me come up with the name (the same friend whom I call my Halloween Santa, and whom I convinced to start NaNoWriMo about an hour before it began). We settled on Evandrus, and she suggested that my main character could call him Evan as a pet name.
Strange, because one of the names I had thought about a lot when creating my list of possibles earlier on had been Evan. Evandrus means “good man”. It really, really fits.
Another thing that came up that I hadn’t planned was my character’s heritage — she’s descended of the people her country has just been at war with for the past three decades. I did not know that; now that I do, it adds more tension to the story. War’s over, but she’s still an outcast.
As a die-hard pantser who’s planning for the first time, I find it interesting the things that still pants their way into your novel even when you have an outline. (By the way, for those of you keeping score at home: an outline is not the same as a draft, and doing an outline is not “cheating” in the spirit of NaNoWriMo. Just to clear things up.)
In my years of writing, I’ve discovered that middles are my trouble. I’ve got a beginning and an end. The middle is this big ball of wibbly-wobbly, spacey-wacey, timey-wimey that resembles tangled yarn more than it does a story.
This time, I have a middle. I have a mid-plot point. I have bad guys for my heroine to beat the crap out of. I’m vaguely planning on utilizing the Traveling Shovel of Death to do so. I have visions of her long leather coat flying majestically behind her as she kicks serious arse.
I wouldn’t have that middle thought out unless I had done my outline. And thinking out the middle actually improved the ending I had in mind — I could make edits to it, make it more poignant. I’m not there yet, but I know the bare bones of what’s going to happen, and it looks pretty awesome.
I’m very excited about my novel — I really like my characters, and I’m interested in seeing where they go and how they go about it on this journey that I’ve lightly mapped for them.
Back to the grind. I’m almost at 10K. Going to hit 15 tonight.