It’s November 5th. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to get up early and go vote. Bryanna may be coming with me if we get up and go early enough. Then it’s back to the grindstone at work, which has been as intense as expected.
I try NaNoWriMo most years. Going into this year, I had very low expectations. The story I’m writing is complicated in every conceivable way, from its lack of gender pronouns to its post-apocalyptic world building, from its complex character dynamics to its layered plot structure. I knew this story would challenge me.
The previous years where I made the 50,000 word goal, the stories were written in first person. Since I spent the entire preceding month writing blog posts which are naturally in first person, I entered November with applicable practice. I always assumed that if I was ever going to succeed at a NaNoWriMo, I would have to write it in first person. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to generate the story fast enough.
I’m coming up on the end of Day 5. According to the official web site, to be on track and make goal on November 30th, I should have 8,333 words written.
As I go to bed tonight, I’ll have completed 16,542.
At some point along the line, I went up a level. Or maybe several levels. Just last month, I didn’t think I was capable of producing quality writing at this speed.
Granted, this whole thing is going to need a ton of editing. The lack of gender pronouns is making for some very clunky prose. My descriptions of these synthetic humans can probably use some boosting, too. Once I’ve finished the first draft, I’m going to have my work cut out for me when I hit the second draft.
But it’s not all bad! In fact, quite a bit of the story is really good! I’ve found inspiration in a number of places, and I think the story already hits some of the emotional depth I was aiming for.
Sunday morning, Michael Gallowglas asked me what my goals were with this story. He said that I’ve already proven in past Novembers that I have the ability to produce. So what am I doing this month? Is it just about writing 50,000 words, or am I trying to make a great story?
As I explained to Michael, those two goals aren’t mutually exclusive. I believe I am crafting a great story. I’m just crafting it way faster than I thought I was capable. Thinking about it today, I think I know why.
First, my inner editor has been remarkably silent as I’ve worked. Some of it is due to the clunky prose I already mentioned. My inner editor just doesn’t know what to do with it. Some of it is because I’m experienced enough with NaNoWriMo that I’ve become better at ignoring the inner editor while drafting. Practice pays off, my friends. If it can work for me, it can work for you, too.
Another reason I’m blazing along is that I’m writing from the most complete outline I’ve ever produced. It doesn’t go to the level that true plotters enjoy. Jennifer Brozek, for example, would have a much more complete and detailed outline. But what I have is doing what I need it to do, which is keep me focused and on track.
Here’s an example from the beginning of my outline:
Goal — Establish the world, the characters, set the tone for the story, and start each of the three cases which will act as the backdrop to the real story, which is the relationship between Dee-ehn and Jayvee
Scene — Dee-ehn and Jayvee investigate scene of an extremely violent and graphic murder
Scene — Dee-ehn and Jayvee interview victim’s neighbors
— We learn the victim kept to themselves
— First view of someone suffering from the virus
— Introduction to another character which may be important later
— We see how interacting with other synths is stressful for Dee-ehn
— We see how interacting with other synths is Jayvee’s strength
Scene — On the way to the bar
— We get our first view of Humanists. Maybe they’re protesting
— We’ll get some explanation of Humanists and Singulars as Dee-ehn and Jayvee argue about the two sects
Scene — At the bar
— This scene establishes the status quo and again demonstrates Dee-ehn’s shyness and Jayvee’s outgoing nature
— Jayvee might play some music. Something that lets Dee-ehn and Jayvee talk about their progenitors
— It’s in this scene we should hint that Dee-ehn’s progenitor is late stage viral
I’ve edited this a little bit to remove spoilers. Also, I wound up cutting the “On the way to the bar” scene.
My outline is giving me a very basic road map of the story. It details my goals, the location, and tells me where things are going. It gives me an idea of what I’m trying to accomplish with each scene without going into too much detail.
I’m the first reader of this story as I’m writing it, so I don’t want too many details. I may have spoiled the over-all plot for myself, but I can still discover some interesting things as I get down to drafting each scene.
The third thing going in my favor this year is my time management. Instead of leaving for lunch during the work week, I’ve been mixing a glass of Soylent and heading to a secluded conference room where I can hide for an hour and write. Each lunch, I’ve managed to write around 1000 words.
When I get home, I go right to the computer, hook up with my friends on twitter, and participate in sprints. It’s incredibly liberating working to a timer. I know that for as long as the clock is running, there isn’t anything else I need to do. I can just focus on the story, craft the prose, learn more about the characters by revealing details, and do the work. When the timer beeps, I stop writing and screw off for a little bit. Rinse and repeat to victory.
There may be a fourth contributor to my success thus far, and it’s that I’m writing with two point-of-view characters. It’s third person limited, and each chapter either follows Dee-ehn or Jayvee. I’m working hard to keep it clear. I avoid head-hopping in the middle of the scenes. The transitions should be clear, and I don’t believe the reader will be confused.
Up until The Exorcism of Jack Evans, I always kept to a single point of view. For this story, it felt very natural to alternate. I think both characters are compelling, and it’s fun exploring their competing views.
I’m not going to have any problem reaching 50,000 words this month. In fact, if I maintain this pace throughout the month, I might be able to finish the entire first draft before December. If I manage that, it will be amazing, and a real milestone for how far I’ve come.
I’ll try to check in from time to time throughout the month. I don’t want to spend too much time blogging because time spent writing a blog post is time I’m not writing Synthetic Dreams. But, I do miss posting here. I think Blog-tober went really well this year, and I’m humbled and glad that so many people stopped by to read what I have to say.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, let me know how you’re doing! I’d love to cheer you on and offer encouragement.
If you’re not participating… you should give it a try some time! You still have time to jump in this year. There’s no financial commitment involved, and the exercise is valuable even if you fall short of the 50,000 word goal.