*Insert inspirational speech here*
About this time last year, I wrote a post about meaning to have written a post about National Novel Writing Month at the halfway mark, to share some of my “wisdom” from the work I’d done thus far. Of course, it was intention to do the same this year, as well as perhaps a kick-off post on November 1. For a variety of reasons, neither of these things happened. But I’d still like to say something.
I don’t presume to tell my fellow WriMos how best to go about tackling this most wonderful time of year, but I know that, in my seven (seven??) years of doing this (to varying degrees of success), I’ve learned a lot about myself, my writing habits, and how my ideas seem to come to fruition on the page. And I’ve always figured that sharing some of that new insight might be helpful to those of you who may be struggling right now.
Also, I realize that some advice or a folksy anecdote might have come in handy, say, a week or two ago, instead of in the home stretch. Sorry.
As you can probably tell from my verbosity (and the fact that I’m procrastinating by writing a blog post at 11:28 a.m. on November 22), I’m deep into this year’s WriMo story. And I did something a little different this year. In the past—and especially the last two years—I’ve seized onto my story idea sometime in the early summer and then spent the summer and fall daydreaming, plotting, outlining, and generally doing everything in my power to keep myself from diving into the actual writing.
This year, I dove into my WriMo story smack in the middle.
I had a few contenders for NaNoWriMo 2016, including an alternate history idea I’ve kicked around for two or three years now but which would require an amount of research I simply didn’t have the time to do; a spy story I was super into but which wasn’t entirely fleshed out (and was kind of a giant rip-off of The Americans?); and a good old-fashioned alien invasion tale, though I’ve never tried sci-fi in my life. What I ultimately settled on was a story about the cast of a fictional 90s teen soap opera that has existed as some bare notes and 10-ish pages of writing on my computer for a year or so.
It was scary, to be completely honest, to get into it this year. I let myself plot and outline and daydream and make playlists, and all that, but I also let myself write. I hadn’t fleshed anything out, but it was an idea that wouldn’t go away and I’d already done some leg work. So, I just kept writing from what I had. It was the first time I’d be using November to try to finish (or, as it’s looking now, at least expand upon) an idea, rather than starting something from scratch.
I wrote through a lot of character development and seminal events in August and September, which helped me better plot each character’s trajectory and get my outline done in October. By the time I realized November was approaching, I felt like I finally knew who these people were and why they insisted on doing what they were doing. They had their quirks and their faults all in line, and they were ready to move into the real meat of their drama.
On November 1, I opened a new doc and I kept going. I’ve only looked back at the other doc to check continuity. I wasn’t sure how this would work, but putting in the extra work early helped me get a better sense of the characters, as well as laying out the map (and logistics) of the fictional town I set everything in. It gave me time to ruminate on the best—and worst—parts of places I love and put them together into a cohesive little seaside hamlet.
It also gave me time to watch more Dawson’s Creek, which has been pivotal to my work.
What I’m saying about WriMo 2016 is, well, it’s been a little weird. As it stands as of this writing, I’ve hit the 44,000-word mark. I haven’t written anything yet today, so I hope to hit the target (if not more). Perhaps by tomorrow, barring catastrophe, I’ll officially be a winner.
But this story is nowhere near done. Even with all the work I put in before November, I’m only about halfway through my plotted story. Is it too long? Will it need pruning? Will anyone ready a 100K epic about 90s nostalgia? I have no idea. But I’m going to keep writing and daydreaming and outlining and plotting. And probably I’ll listen to “Wonderwall” 87 more times. I encourage you to do the same (if you’re into “Wonderwall”).
I also encourage you to mix it up. It might be a little late to revamp your entire understanding of the English language and how to bring a fictional story to fruition in time to hit the 50K mark for NaNoWriMo 2016, but just try to do one thing different. If you write at home, try writing in public. If you feel like your characters always do one thing, have them spin around three times (metaphorically—or perhaps literally) and head in another direction. And once you’ve done this year’s edits, it’s never too early to start thinking about 2017.
No matter where your word count stands, I’ll see you at the finish line.