I managed to survive the first week of NaNoWriMo and actually wrote something every day. Take it or leave it, I think that in itself is a great accomplishment. If you also made it through this week chipping away at your novel at least a little bit every day – kudos to you! Like I said: major accomplishment (cue salute)! You’re writing a freaking novel, after all!
This week, I learned several very important lessons. About myself. About writing. About how I write. And these lessons can be summed up in two (seemingly contradictory) parts:
1. Pre-planning your novel is necessary
I walked into November with a vague novel idea. Actually, “idea” is overselling it. Rephrase: I walked into November with a vague image. In other words, I was winging it.
I somehow stabbed out 9532 words this week and decided to call my novel baby James Sees Ghosts. And…that’s about it.
Then what about the 9532 words? you say. Well, those 9532 words are just that – words. Fluff. Hopeless meandering. Plot procrastination. Cookie-cutter character stamping. Impressionistic brush strokes of a vague setting.
I didn’t know who my novel was. I was making her up as I went along. And at first, THIS SUCKED. I was not enjoying myself. I was wandering, clueless, with no sense of direction. Like feeling your way through a blinding blizzard. (Which is ironic, because the first chapter of my novel takes place in a blinding blizzard!)
This is something I’d definitely change in future NaNos. The keeners who dragged out their whiteboards and brushed out their story maps in December 2013 have some merit.
2. Pre-planning your novel is not necessary
So my first few days were pretty bleak. I wrote my novel with the same technique I use for my uni essays, a technique that utilizes a manure product from male domestic ungulatess (aka bullshit).
But after these initial dog days, my inspiration juice started wriggling.
I began getting ideas. At a pace faster than I could write down.
Truth is, I haven’t had ideas fly at me this quickly since I was a teenager, when I had my last Big Novel Idea (creativity just deteriorates with age, eh?). It was as if my characters, tired of standing around doing nothing, brought matters into their own hands. And my novel really started taking shape: the rules of the world I’d created, the identities of my characters, what they were going to do with their lives, etc.
I know that keeping track of your ideas is like catching fireflies, so I’m dedicating Saturday to pausing my word count and maybe rolling out the whiteboard. Do some story mapping. Doodle manga versions of my characters. Stuff like that.
So I’m not saying you should wing NaNoWriMo, nor am I saying you’re screwed if you do. What I’m doing is echoing my favourite high school writing teacher’s oft-repeated phrase: “Write it don’t fight it.”
Assemble your ammo. What little and what plenty you have. And things will fall in place. Remember that it’s an innate human desire to tell stories and create what did not exist before – you were made for this! The human race dedicates a month each year to longwinded stories, after all.