On Monday, I posted a blog about my falling-out with NaNoWriMo. I promised I’d tell you guys all about my plan for rehabilitating my relationship with the program — and so I am! This is how I’m going to make NaNoWriMo work for me this November.
I’ve never been a planner. Even with my short stories, I tend to launch in with an idea for an opening scene and a general concept of what’s important, and just go from there. But with a short story, it’s easy to cut entire plot points, rewrite a third of the story, and do major edits on the entire thing. With a novel, changing a plot point can render dozens or even hundreds of pages useless. I’ve resisted planning for much of my creative writing career, but I realize now that it has value, and if I want to write something worthwhile at top speeds, I have to have an idea of where I’m going.
I’ve been fleshing out my concept, main character profiles, and a general plot arc for a few weeks now, and I’m also trying to make sure the history of my invented realm is clean-cut, since it’s relevant to my storyline. I hope that by creating an outline that has direction but is still flexible, I’ll still feel like I have creative freedom during the actual writing process. More succinctly: I want to know what destinations I’m aiming for, but I don’t want a step-by-step Google Maps account of where my novel will go.
I love organizing things, so I have my planning all structured:
- Plot summary/concept Just a paragraph or two!
- “Cast list” of characters This is kind of thing you’ll probably add to as you write, so you can keep track or character details (last name, age, hair color, relationship to other characters)
- Main character profiles Here’s a great, detailed template, or make your own!
- Worldbuilding/history This is definitely big for fantasy and sci-fi, but can also be helpful for research compilation for historical work or work set in a city or town you don’t know well.
- Plot arc This is something that you should make more or less detailed depending on how much guidance you want. It could be as detailed as a list of chapters and main events in each one, or it could be as basic as quick descriptions of the beginning, middle, and end.
In high school and college, I thought I was busy. But now, between a full-time job, a relationship, and running a company, I have to schedule every minute of my day. I won’t be able to just “find time” to write the way I used to. I need to plan a structured method for getting those 1,667 words in each day. I still haven’t decided where I’m going to fit mine in, but here are some of the options I’m considering:
- Early bird: Wake up earlier than usual to squeeze in some writing before work or school. This is helpful because it’s not competing for any other use of time (except sleep, of course!) It’s also a great way to get a solid, positive start to your day, and it helps to alleviate the stress of the month by getting your work out of the way ASAP!
- Lunch break: I get up to an hour of lunch at work, which is a good sized chunk of time (and a great creative break for your work day!) This one is great because if I’m not writing during my lunch, I’m probably just going to be playing Candy Crush. I know. I’m ashamed.
- Cook-and-write: I’ve been trying to cook full meals more often (planning your meals out makes for more efficient grocery-shopping, and better control of eating healthily) which means I come straight home from work and get started with prep. If I plan for a lot of soups, stews, and oven baked dishes this November, I can use the time while dinner is cooking to get some writing in. The bonus for this one is that often times my boyfriend gets home later than me, so that time is the only post-work time that I have the house to myself.
- Night owl: For some people, creative juices get flowing at night. I’m one of those people. The good news is that writing at night will likely flow more easily than writing at any other time. The bad news is that I will probably sleep a lot less!
One problem with going to school for writing is that the academic world of creative writing has an exclusive, monogamous love affair with literary fiction. It’s not that I don’t like literary fiction — it’s just that it’s not what I want to write. Although I learned invaluable things about the general crafting of a story, and definitely improved my prose, I came away from school feeling guilty for wanting to write young adult fantasy and science fiction. I tried to force my writing into a niche that wasn’t what I was passionate about.
This year, I’m over it. I’ve rediscovered my love of the young adult novel, and I’ve remembered how much fun it is to write something you love. I’ve been reading YA literature and remembering why I wanted to write it in the first place.
I’m an “adult” now, in every relevant sense of the word — I’m done with school and now, I’ll only go where I push myself to go. There’s no one holding my hand anymore, suggesting that there are great things ahead of me. I don’t have any more excuses to not work towards being a novelist.
I’m pumped up. I’m raring to go, I’m ready to write a novel! Are you? Tell me about your NaNoWriMo plans in the comments!
And don’t forget to add me as a writing buddy!