Sunday, October 28, 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to NaNoWriMo

Funny thing. If you've noticed at all, you know that I've done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the last 3 years and written 3 fairy fantasy time-slipping mythic adventure novels--four counting the one I did in the summer between the first two. The Dragon Ring, which came out in March in a much expanded and altered form, was the very first one. But I just don't have time this year--or won't once someone gets me the edits for King's Raven, which is by the way scheduled for December 21st! But even so, there's just something about October. It's planning month, apparently whether I like it or not!

Not that I haven't been meaning to get back to Mermaid Stair, but other things got in the way--work, of course, but mostly the joy of having books being published is balanced by the effort and anguish of trying to get people to read them! And then I sort of ran out of steam.

So... planning month. Since I started doing this, it seems I've spent September researching , thinking about characters, themes, settings, McGuffins, adversaries and red herrings in a general sort of way, and making a lot of notes, asking the "what if" and "what about" questions that start to fill up my project notebook. Then in October "outlining" starts. No no, don't start snoring. It's not really an outline, not the kind of thing we learned to do for expository writing:

I. Topic
    A. Subtopic
        * point
        * point
        * point
    B. another Subtopic
        * and so on.

Who would write a novel like that?  Eesh, boring! And besides, a novel isn't much like an essay, so why pretend it is?.

Which is why I usually call my outline a story board. It's basically the straight line of the events that lead to other events, that somehow draw to a conclusion. It shows me where the characters all are, and what happens next. I use a 2-column table in Word so there's plenty of room to plug in details or interesting things I don't want to forget in appropriate places. When you're writing a whole novel, even a short one of 50,000 words, in 30 days it's good to have a map handy! The table also makes it so easy to move whole scenes or blocks around. Dates/Locations and scene numbers go in the narrower left column, actions and outlines and DID THIS ALREADY notes in the other, wider one. It's very flexible--has to be or it would be useless to me!

Then in the very last week of October, right about now, I'm usually working up a decent opening... technically a cheat but if I don't, I'll waste the first week of November on the same thing. It actually feels a bit odd not to be doing that right now, and I do have a terrific idea for the next Harper Errant novel, But it's not quite ready to start yet. Besides, it's the mermaids' turn: Mermaid Stair has languished in its original draft for long enough.

For the last few weeks I've been getting ready for Mermaid's second draft--making notes, stumbling over plot holes, identifying scenes that got left out as they must when you're writing a breakneck speed to finish a novel in 30 days. I've done some tinkering before, but this will be the first major revision. I'm so ready1 Must be something in the air!

More about the revision process next time.


  1. OMG - It starts this week! ack! I am unsure if I am ready, but I too will be giving it a shot. I failed dramatically last year, but I am hoping that I am better prepared. It seems that you have some good tips for those of us who would like to succeed!


  2. It can be nerve wracking, but if nothing else it helps you get behind the idea of writing--seriously--every day and staying focussed on the goal. Start and actually finish a novel! Such a great feeling! Good luck!