"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nanowrimo and Plotting

As if the month of November wasn't busy enough with the blog tour, I'd also decided to try to meet the Nanowrimo challenge, and write a 50 000 words novel in thirty days. This may sound like a totally crazy endeavor, and it is, in many ways. 50 000 words divided by 30 days, means that I had to write 1663 words, each and every day. 

I didn't make it, needless to say. But I did manage to write 28570 words in the first 18 or 19 days. Before I hit a wall. I had not plotted my story at all. Have I mentioned that plotting is not my strong suit? I tend to start with characters, situations and settings. I may have a vague idea of where the story is supposed to be going... but not always.  The beauty of Nanowrimo is that it forces you to write, to add words, to push them out of you at whatever cost. Most of all, it means that with such a strong focus on getting a number of words written, you simply cannot spend time rereading yourself. Ah, now, we are onto something.

Who out there is like me, endlessly rereading their words, changing a coma, here, tweaking a sentence, there, and quickly getting stuck? Who, like me, finds it almost impossible to turn our inner editor into a salt statue or send them to a dark corner with the order to stay put and absolutely mute until they're actually needed?

Nanowrimo taught me a few things about my writing process. Funny, because these lessons I also need to apply in my every day life. Maybe everyone ought to try Nanowrimo at least once in their life ? 

So, the lessons learned? I need to let go (yeah, yeah), to trust the process, the characters, and the story more, to let them unravel themselves at their own pace and leisure, and it doesn't matter if they fumble a bit, if they wander in a direction that seems to go nowhere, because actually, what looks like a dead-end could reveal a small tunnel, or an hidden path that will take us... to a totally unexpected elsewhere full of promises.

So why didn't I continue, you ask? In order to extricate my characters from the dead-end into which they found themselves, mid-way, I would have needed to spend a lot of time doing research. My main character got tangled into a world that I know practically nothing about (and I don't write fantasy) and it seemed pointless to continue without a few clues at least as to what was possible, and what was just ludicrous. I should also mention that by the middle of the month, I was starting to feel so exhausted from the lack of sleep and the amount of hours spent in front of the computer, each day, that I feared I would not be able to continue with the blog tour. And that was not an option, obviously. So, something had to go.

BUT  Martha Alderson, of Blockbuster Plots' fame, is giving out tips on plotting in her blog, during the month of December. And I'm happy to report that I've gone back to my story and my characters, and am now in the process of organizing a rescue operation to see if I can keep this project going. Wish me luck...


Jo Ann v. said...

Katia, one thing I can say: do your research before and after NaNo, never during it ;-)
I started re-reading my NaNo and already erased 4K words ! Still 80 pages to go (out of 286 !), I wonder ;-)
I haven't finished my story because my main characters (3 cousins) decided to do other things than I had in mind. I have no idea where I'm going, though, so I can't think of an end just as yet. Normally I have the beginning and the end, but since they decided to change their routes, well... au petit bonheur la chance ;-)
Good luck !

Janet Brown said...

You two inspire me--and 1600-2000 words a day is not an unreasonable goal--unless of course you have two daughters and are on a virtual book tour for a month!

Katia said...

Bon, nous sommes un peu dans le même bain, alors, sauf que ta baignoire contient beaucoup plus d'eau que la mienne :) Bonne chance à toi aussi, Jo Ann.

Janet, have you tried it out? I actually think that even without daughters and a blog tour, 1500 words and above / day is a lot. It drains you, really. Which is the reason nanowrimo only lasts a month. Most participants are pretty burned out at the end. But hey, if you manage to do that, let me know. I'm definitely on the sidelines, ready to cheer for you :) I know I will try and do it again, next year, and this time, I'll prepare myself a little better and make sure my calendar is as light as possible.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Katia! That is a wonderful achievement -- just to get the bones of the story down. I have tried those novel in a month deals a couple of times and not gotten anywhere. You should pat yourself on the back!
I did just take a 3-day retreat by myself and made a lot of progress on a novel. It's a good feeling.

Plot Whisperer said...

Thanks, Katia, for the shout-out.

Should be writing today's post. Procrastinating instead....

Hope you're finding International Plot Writing Month helpful.

Katia said...

Hello Sue,
A three days retreat ! Now that is something I dream of. I'm glad it gave you the freedom, space and energy to move forward with your novel. I'll be looking forward to reading it, as I always love discovering your work.

Katia said...

Thank you, Martha, for stopping by, and thank you for this excellent initiative. Yes, I'm finding it extremely helpful.

Heather Zundel said...

That is AWESOME you could learn so much from NaNoWriMo. I would just be stressed out of my mind trying to get those words under my belt (probably why I have yet to attempt it. I swear, NaNoWriMo is like a mental marathon for writers. Absolutely brutal, but so satisfying). I learned a ton, just by reading this. Thanks for posting it.