Mid-month NaNo 2011 Update

I’ve had so little time to read, and am currently in the middle of two books, Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massey and The Bastard by Brenda Novak, so I don’t have a review for you.

Instead, I’ll give a short note on my NaNo process.

I am halfway through my NaNo 50k, and change, but it’s a small bit of extra words. I’m struggling a bit mainly because circumstances kept me from doing the necessary preparation, and so I have to figure out where scenes belong and whether they’re really supposed to be in the book or whether I need to add them. Not only do the outline words not count, but it makes my progress jerky.

A long time ago, I figured out the value of outlines to keep forward motion. Now I’m not talking the type of outlines we learned in school necessarily, though there are people for whom that works. My outline process matured in stages and has reached a point that I can focus on writing alone if I’ve completed my prework.

See, the problem is that my initial outline is a mess. I know the shape of the story and make guesses as to what scenes will be necessary to bring that shape to life. It’s an iterative process where scenes appear out of order, I realize I need to flesh a section out, I put one scene blurb for what is actually four separate pieces, etc.

My second step is also iterative. I go through and sort these scenes, often several times as I figure out the best dynamic or identify new holes to fill, into a chronological order.

Only then do I start writing, comfortable that I have done what I can to ensure a cohesive (not final) draft.

The outline for my NaNo was in the early stages of the initial step. I realized that the MC I’d identified had only half the story, and that it begins instead with the character who had been almost catatonic in the initial vision. Every day I try to glance ahead and figure out what’s going to come next, and every day I find myself adding, deleting, shifting, or reworking.

I know that’s not proper NaNo behavior, but I also know myself. There is only one story-related event that can cause me to experience writer’s block. If I try and push on, knowing something needs to be added, I can produce a bit of mediocre prose, but soon I grind to a halt.

This does not make for the easiest NaNo, and it’s a reminder to get my act together, or at least choose something I’ve outlined better as my NaNo novel, but none of that changes where I am today, and I plan to get my 50k if I have to sit there typing with three minutes to spare.

So, how is your NaNo going? And do you outline, or just let it come together?

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2 Responses to Mid-month NaNo 2011 Update

  1. Sadly, I can’t officially participate this year, since I’m planning to self-publish my book next month. But I did manage to finish another hefty round of revisions yesterday! So it’ll go to betas and I’ll make one more pass before I take the plunge.

    I know what you mean about outlines being so helpful. Holly’s classes have been hugely helpful with helping me find a good balance between planning too much (aka killing the story) and planning too little (wandering around wherever my muse leads me).

    The only advice I can think to give is to remember the scenes don’t have to be in order for Nanowrimo. 😉

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      Hey, priorities make sense :). And yes, NaNo lets me write out of order, but my brain doesn’t. I’m a storyteller first and a writer second. Rarely can I jump ahead and then back. The only time that works well is when I don’t know I’m doing it.

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