My Own Personal NaNo

So, many people all around the world are participating in NaNoWriMo, and the millions of millions of words will begin rolling in.

For some, it’s chance to start the novel they’ve always thought they could write. For others, it’s a chance to play along again, participate with those scores of writers who every year throw themselves with reckless abandon into the fifty thousand words in a month foray.

I have never waded into the morass of NaNoWriMo, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing this fall.

I’ve never participated for one simple reason: Fear.

I’m scared I won’t finish. And because NaNoWriMo calls reaching the fifty thousand word marker “winning,” I start to see what happens if I don’t achieve the goal as “losing.” That doesn’t sit well with me on a lot of different fronts, but it’s just an added pressure I simply don’t need.

I think stress on my creative voice to create, create, CREATE!! has cause me to have a bit of trouble getting off the ground. But on November 1, 2015, I sat down and struggled out about 700 words of a story I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. (Six-ish years.)

After I finished, I decided to follow the Writing into the Dark prescription closely, just as I did last spring, in hopes the process itself would inspire me enough to write the book. So I went to my hard drive folder and realized I’d outlined this story before. I don’t have the software to read that file anymore, but it didn’t matter. I was going to launch away into the dark and see what comes.

So I went to my computer desk and grabbed a set of index cards and an old card folder my wife bought me to store them. I love index cards, and we thought these were the best solution for my myriad plotting, planning, and outlining schemes because they’re small, easy to rearrange, and easy to replace.

Normally, the method calls for using a legal pad, but if a scene needs to be added sometime earlier in the book, it can be quite a trick to insert that into the outline. (The method probably states you don’t need to add to the outline after the book’s finished, since it got you to the end. The additions need to be in the manuscript but not the reverse outline. I simply can’t do that…ARRGH! No!) But with index cards, it’s as easy as adding the scene, filling out the new card, then stuffing it into the pile of cards you have in the right spot. If you’ve numbered them, they can be renumbered easily enough, and voila – new scene, complete outline.

So anyway, I grabbed a box of the cards and noticed there were already cards in the box. I took one out and behold – it was the set of outline cards I’d created for this very story.

I giggled, and dug out the first card. And it mirrored what I’d written almost perfectly. I was blown away, giddy with joy, and excited. So I turned the first card over and discovered a more complete outline, guiding me through the first card’s face sentence.

I wrote the first scene, using what I’d found on the card, and that led me to add something more to the first chapter which wasn’t there before. Then I reverse outlined it, and added it to the stack.

I took a break and cycled back over my previous words every time I finished a sprint, and before long I had two thousand words and a new card. Plus, I have other cards, but only the first four have the detail on the back.

This morning, I was excited to see I can both outline and write into the dark, and this time, with this book, using the outline helped more than trying to write into the dark. So until it stops working, I’ll keep doing it this way, using the cards, and going forward.

But I also realized the cards weren’t an outline of the first scene. I remembered when I’d made those cards, and it was during my binge on Dramatica theory as a story planning method. The front of the card is a single-sentence description of a sequence, not a scene.

(If you don’t know, a sequence is a series of related scenes, which build as a miniature act, of the story, including an inciting incident, rising conflict, more rising conflict, and a climax to complete the sequence. Each of those segments is a scene, the four scenes comprising the sequence. So.)

So I basically condensed four scenes down to a single scene, and now have to rethink the remaining three cards for this act (Act I). I don’t know if I’ll adhere to them as written – if I’d done that, my four scenes would have been pretty slow and boring. So some re-evaluation of the cards is in order as I write.

But I’m farther on the path of completion for this story than I’ve ever been before, and I know where it’s going and what’s included in it. I also know what I need to add to it to complete the picture for the reader. I can see the candy bar scenes, and heck, maybe I’ll write those first if I get stuck from now on (I should make cards for them first though, so I can reverse outline them when I’m finished writing them).

But for the moment, I’m feeling unstuck again. And if this helps me write a new book before the end of the year, I’ll be very happy indeed.

In any case, Dean Wesley Smith’s blog post for today (November 2, 2015) states emphatically that, even for long-time pros, no two books write the same way. Some require one method of attack, others require different means to reach the end. And good writers have different tools in their toolboxes to make sure they get every story written, however it happens best and fastest.

So, while I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo, I will be writing, as fast and as much as I can. I don’t know if I’ll get fifty thousand words in by the end of the month, but it will be more than I’ve managed since July, whatever the number. Stay tuned!


2 thoughts on “My Own Personal NaNo

  1. I also like Dean’s quote about “failing to success” – even if you don’t complete 50,000 words, most likely you’ll end up with a whole bunch. More than most writers. That would be a real success.

    Very true, Sean, and I agree. It’s a good thing for most to try, as long as it encourages and doesn’t discourage. I can’t remember the sales guru who said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.”

    You know…in a creepy, we’re-gonna-die-in-the-cold-vacuum-of-space sort of way.

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