The decision to engage in National November Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is probably the most masochistic thing I’ve done since adopting my 13 Week Novel Writing process. Except maybe for that lost weekend in Iceland…
The NaNoWriMo Battle Plan
Any prizefighter has a battle plan when they step into the ring with their opponent.
Not necessarily all writers do, but if you read this blog often enough, you’ll know that I advocate at least a basic amount of planning before setting out on anything marathon-like, such as writing a novel.
Not because I don’t appreciate the rush and swoosh of writing by the seat of one’s pants, but because I think it’s hard to know when one has arrived at one’s destination if one isn’t really sure where one is going.
So when I started NaNoWriMo three days ago, I had a bit of a plan.
I spent most of the last few months doing character studies, describing important settings, and fleshing out some of the world-building details. My story will take place during a high religious holiday on my fantasy world’s calendar, at an important cult center. Such times and places in our own world have historically attracted a good deal of foot traffic, both from pilgrims and from merchants. So I did a lot of research into religious conflicts, pilgrimages and merchant caravans, and I translated that research into characters, trade goods, commercial vehicles, housing accommodations, and a handful of vying interpretations of the prevailing fictional religion in my fantasy world.
Beyond that, I put some thought specifically into the kind of story I wanted to tell: a heroic action-adventure with a strong element of romance in a fantastical setting.
Genre expectations for such a story are different from the sort of base-minimum novel that NaNo encourages. Fantasy novels of less than 90,000 words don’t usually get much traction among readers of Fantasy literature.
While market considerations shouldn’t be one’s first concern in planning out the first draft of a novel, I also didn’t want to be left with half a novel yet to write at the end of thirty days. So I’ve compromised on a 65000 word count-target for my own personal NaNo goal. My last novel, The Romance of Eowain, wasn’t much longer than that, and I wrote the first draft of that in 90 days.
So with the preparatory work already out of the way, 65k of fresh material didn’t seem an entirely unreasonable target. Still masochistic—I need 2166 words a day to hit that goal—but not entirely unreasonable.
So with word count, background research, and characters out of the way, and a 2166 word/day habit to feed coming up, I decided it was reasonable to sketch out an outline. And then another one. And then three more. Each one built on and revised from the one before, until I thought I had a good idea of the character arcs for each of the three primary characters, the challenges they would face, their response to those challenges, and the overall story question and its resolution via the plot’s through-line.
As satisfied and prepared as I could hope to be after this past weekend, I patted myself on the back for a job well done and went off to find some well-earned Halloween candy.
Every Prizefighter Has a Plan—Until He Gets Hit
I don’t know where you are in your writing journey, or what your process is. Maybe you only write when and as much as you’re inspired to write by whatever Muse sprinkles pixie-dust on you. Maybe you don’t write at all and just enjoy watching NaNoWriMo writers squirm.
Personally, I’ve been writing 1000 words a day minimum for the last three years. Every day. Hell or high water. Inspired or not. Often times, the requirements of specific projects require somewhat more than that. The Romance of Eowain was written on a steady diet of 1675 word per day. Some days, the Muse sprinkles her pixie-dust on me and I can do more than that. Some days she doesn’t and it’s a struggle just to meet the minimum.
But no matter how you slice it, 2166 words per day on a single subject is an uphill haul worthy of Sisyphus. Add a day job into the mix, and the need to keep up with both this blog and my newsletters, and a family, and a dog, etc etc, and I’m sure you can imagine that it’s an uphill haul against a downhill torrent.
Well, if you can’t imagine, allow me to assure you: It is.
Without warning, the owner of my workspace has decided to do renovations. Not just, “Oh, the bathroom’s going to be unavailable for a few hours” renovations. Dry-wall demolition, roofing, siding, flooring, windows, all are being replaced in an adjacent unit. Several weeks of work. Contractors showed up with a dumpster at the crack of dawn on Monday. Trying to work here is like having Satan’s own jackhammer in my head.
- Day One word-count: 1617.
- Day Two word-count: 1683.
I also managed to complete a thorough rewrite of my planned outline, and made several calls around the neighborhood in search of an alternate work-space. I found something that will do the trick, and I’ll be able to get in there on Monday. Praise the heavens that I’m “location independent” and can use the local library in the meantime.
So I’m on my basic NaNo target (1666 words/day), but I’m 1032 words behind on my personal goal.
But so far this morning, my word-count is: “Oh my god I’m going to murder that guy with his own reciprocal saw!”
So since my plan went down the tubes in the first three days, here’s a new plan: Just Write the Hell Out of This! As of now, I’ll have to hit 2204 words per day to meet my personal goal.
Sigh. The Getting Up? That’s up to me…
Welcome to #NaNoWriMo.