September is creeping to a close and with the dawning of October comes the Month Before NaNoWriMo™! (dramatic music)
NaNoWriMo is, of course, National Novel Writing Month which has been held every November since 1999. With 200,500 participants and 37, 500 winners in 2010 (plus the folks from this year’s inaugural Camp sessions), NaNo is gearing up for a pretty impressive season!
Which means it’s time to roll up my sleeves and start outlining…
What Has Come Before
Thus far I’ve had a mixed success with NaNo’s. I’ve won three times out of eight attempts, but have yet to go back and turn any of them into a ‘real’ novel. While I am failing upwards more or less consistently, I’m a long way from being a NaNo pro.
This year I’m trying for a honest to [deity] novel-shaped draft by the end of November. Based on my history, this means I need to have a novel-shaped outline as free of plot holes and [needs research] notations as possible.
- The Phoenix Colony – Camp August 2011 (Science Fiction)
- That Don’t Impress Me Much – Camp July 2011 (Fantasy)
- The Sundering – 2010 (Science Fiction)
- When Good is Dumb – 2009 (Urban Fantasy)
- Woven – 2008 (Fantasy)
- Dogs of the Never Never – 2007 (Urban Fantasy)
- The Gate to Fenrith Lei – 2006 (Fantasy)
- Unnamed Project – 2005 (Fantasy)
Failure is the Breakfast of Champions
So what have I learned from my 3/8 batting average? Quite a bit thankfully…
Camp August 2011 taught me that I can’t NaNo two months in a row, no matter how interesting the premise seems at the time. I normally get burned out in December, but somehow though the new season would mean a new outcome—not so much. After two wins in a row, this was a depressing loss, but hopefully I’ll do better with the challenge to come.
Camp July 2011 taught me that I need to think out the plot a little more, most of the road blocks came from running out of outline. When the story is mostly done the ‘and then what’ get more and more complicated to fit into the existing plot.
NaNo 2010 taught me that sometimes there is too much plot for one novel—I need to define the story more carefully and not keep pushing the edges or I end up with soup instead of stew. I think I ended up with enough material for three books, or a good dozen short stories that year.
NaNo 2009 taught me that gimmicks aren’t enough to keep the Muses happy. Sure, using TV Tropes to find ideas was fun, but it left me with a quilted together storyline that never quite resolved into something Muse-worthy.
NaNo 2008 taught me that protagonists that meander through the story without a purpose are neither fun to read nor fun to write. The plot consisted of ‘run away until you run out of places to run to, then hide out while the world ends’. There was a bit more of a plot in the second part of the book, but it didn’t fit at all with the first half.
NaNo 2007 taught me that just because I love the premise doesn’t mean that it will work come NaNo. There were a LOT of plot holes in Dogs, mostly centered in the worldbuilding. The plot didn’t make sense and the fictives picked up on that fact. They were more apt to talk amongst themselves (or with the Writer) rather than try and force the story forward.
NaNo 2006 taught me that I shouldn’t write a story I care about. The Gate to Fenrith Lei was to near and dear to my heart to commit the kind of plotting seppuku that a true NaNo demands. I have to dump every idea I have, good and bad, onto the page—not just the ones that look nice.
NaNo 2005 taught me that I need to get out to the write-ins… otherwise I don’t get anything done.
And that maybe, just maybe, NaNoWriMo might be a little harder than I had assumed.
Winning the Battles AND the War
Thankfully, I have all of October to plan out my November novel (and create a story-related art).
I’m breaking down the different things I’ll need to do in order to end up with a workable outline and I’ll be posting during October about the planning process. Sort of a reformed-pantsers guide to doing NaNo, assuming I can master the ‘reformed’ bit.
So be forewarned, October is going to be quite a trip!
On a non-NaNo note: I also need to think about what sort of blog posts I’ll be doing in November and December. July was pretty much a barren wasteland and the post-NaNo slump took a big chunk out of August. I’m hoping to be a little less invisible this time around, although I’m not sure I can keep up with a daily update post…