I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, and I’m delighted by how well it’s going. I'm on track and over 10K. My characters are coming alive, my plot in bundling along nicely, and the words are flowing. Yay!
There have been other years when this so wasn’t the case. Years where the words didn’t flow, where I’d check my word count after an hour of effort and despair to see that I’d only added 150 words. Years when I ran into a road block, was stumped for days trying to get around it, ended up way behind schedule and gave up.
This was especially painful for me because I’ve always preferred drafting to the drudgery of rewriting. That’s where most of my joy was and to have that turn into a slog, too, really sucked.
So since things are going well, I want to stop for a moment and analyze why. Why is this novel dancing along when the previous two didn’t? I think it’s important for writers to know their process, to know what works and what doesn’t.
Part of it may be because I’ve been wanting to write this novel for a long time. The basic character conflict came to me over five years ago, a premise that I love. I even wrote a synopsis, but until now I never sat down to write it. I had reasons: I wasn’t happy with that version of the plot, it felt clichéd and vague. It's book two in a series, and I was still revising book one. (The series is PNR and my wheelhouse is YA fantasy so there was a steep learning curve when I switched genres.)
Mostly though, I think this year’s novel is going well because of my outline. I’ve always been an outliner. Pantsing for me is a nightmare of staring at the screen not knowing where to steer the story. However, over the years my detailed chapter-by-chapter outline had fallen by the wayside and been replaced by a simple list of chronological events with gaps in between. At a certain point in the planning stage, I would become overcome with enthusiasm and plunge in, trusting to momentum to push me through the blank spots in my outline. Sometimes it worked. More often, it didn’t.
With this book, I was ready to start writing by October 26th, but had to hold off until November 1st to participate in Nanowrimo without breaking the rules. Since it was only a few days, I waited and spent those extra days adding detail to my outline and plumping out character arcs. And it’s making such a difference! I can start each scene with a clear sense of what needs to happen.
Again, the purpose of this post is not to convince you to outline, but rather if you’re struggling to take some time and think about your process. You know what works for you and what doesn’t. Are you doing all the things that you know work, or like me, have you been cutting corners and paying for it with poor writing days?
Best of luck! I have to go--I hear my novel calling.