≡ Menu

Getting ready for Nano

I’m teaching myself the art of fiction, so I expect a learning curve. Plotting BEFORE one writes is probably easier than what I’m doing, which is trying to fit a commercial plot onto what I have already written. This month I’m determined to outline the plot I’ve been working on for my novel.

My plan is to have a solid and very detailed outline of the novel before November 1st, then I can spend National Novel Writing Month writing the needed scenes. Officially, I think NANO encourages working on a new piece of work, but they mean that you must start the month with zero words and then [hopefully] finish with 50,000.

I have more than 100,000 words written for the novel, but most of them are not usable toward a finished product. Character and setting development came out of those words, so they aren’t “a waste.” A very tight, forward-moving commercial plot is what I’m after, not a long, drawn out, stream-of-consciousness mess that a lot of my 100,000+ word work currently is.

Novel writers usually fall into one of these two categories: outliners and typers. Some don’t write a word of their novel until they have an outline of the plot. Other writers concentrate on just getting some words and characters on the page and letting that stream of consciousness develop. I started this novel at NANO in 2004. I reached my first 50,000 words then, but as I kept adding to that pile, I realized my story and my plot weren’t coherent nor forward-moving. Taking part in NANO again without a detailed plot line will give more more disjointed writing. Some interesting developments may come out of it, but stream-of-consciousness gives diminishing returns after 100,000 words. If I keep writing, the story will veer so far away from my original plan that I will have to scrap it all. Already the story has to be reigned in. Hence, my need for a solid outline.

I’m running into two major problems: Being self-taught, I really don’t know how to plot, and being a full-time parent is my current occupation; it lends few opportunities for chunks of hours that I need. Changing the way I work, almost changing my whole personality, is proving to be my major roadblock. Writer’s block I don’t have, discipline-block I do. I must write in 5-minute snippets, have a palm pilot or paper handy for those small strikes of inspiration, keep the characters and their lives in my head at all times, etc. etc. A published novel and a writing career is my dream, and all of this is the tough personal work dreams require. It’s like running a marathon alone, without having trained and without even a single cheering fan. I ask myself if it is worth it everyday. There might not even be a finish line for me; publication isn’t guaranteed. But I’ll forge on. This isn’t a dream that I’m willing to give up.

  "You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one."
James A. Froude (1818 - 1894)