Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Where I've Been Writing: NaNoWriMo

This past November was the first time I seriously attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I didn't reach the 50,000 word goal, but I did manage to get more words done on a single manuscript than I ever have before in a month.

It was hard, especially since I tend to be a SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer. I usually write fiction in short bursts with days of thinking in between, at least until I get to the last quarter or so of a book. Since NaNoWriMo requires official participants to start with a new project, I didn't get as much thinking time as I wanted. Instead of mulling over options to find the best one, I had to pick one and go with it.

I tried to do some planning before NaNo started, but so many of my ideas emerge as I write that it ended up only consisting of rough ideas for the first few scenes and character details.

Toward the end of the month, I started to see the pitfalls of the special ability I'd given my main character. The ability made her too powerful. Now that she had figured out how to use it, there was nothing to stop her from jumping to the end of the story and saving the day - at least 40,000 words too soon. Any obstacle I threw at her would be flimsy and not able to hold up for the bulk of a novel. Even limiting the ability wouldn't help much, and would make for a decent amount of rewriting. And the resulting easily-overcome conflict would stunt her character growth.

So I have two options - ditch the story, or start over with only the first 2-3 scenes remaining mostly intact. I've left the story in limbo since I realized the story as is couldn't be salvaged, trying to think of a way to save the characters and place them in an altered framework. I like my characters, their back stories, and how they relate to each other. I've invested a lot of time into researching details to get them right. I also don't want to waste the huge amount of info on federal agents a friend in the profession gave me.

And now, after three months of hiding in the freezer (yeah, that far beyond being on the back burner), ideas are starting to connect again. The premise is thawing under the influence of a new twist, one that will provide conflict and creative problem-solving, plus - probably most importantly - give my hero and heroine time to connect longer than their "cute meet" at a wedding would normally entail.

This time, I'm going to give the story room to breathe. No rushing forward with the first idea that pops into my head. That means I probably won't be writing 50,000 or even 25,000 words a month, but it doesn't mean I'll let myself take years. I wrote my first novel, with plenty of time to research and contemplate, in just under a year - and it was 115,000 words.

Sorry, NaNoWriMo. I have to take substance over speed. My brain does not work best on your timetable.


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