Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today. Some of you know I participated in NaNoWriMo back in November. (Thanks, Mae!) In case you aren’t familiar with this annual event, the goal is to write 50,000 new words in a month or 1,667 words per day.
Could I accomplish the 50K goal? Last January, I began keeping a daily word count. I counted everything—novels, short stories, blog posts, book reviews. Even dribble that I’ll never publish. Doing this helped me to see what I could do. But even so, the most I wrote in a month was around 26K words.
I figured any number of words written would be better than nothing, so I signed up to begin a new project. On November 29, I crossed the 50K word mark on my upcoming novel, Cold Dark Night.
It’s likely some of you write in excess of 50K words every month. But those of us who also work outside the home must make time to write. My full-time job requires a lot of concentration. There are days when I come home mentally exhausted. Writing even a paragraph can be challenging.
In a series of posts, I want to share how I managed to make the goal. It’s my hope these posts will help you with your everyday writing goals. They can be applied at any time. It’s not just for National Novel Writing Month.
Today’s topic is planning ahead.
I doubt I will ever be a true planner or plotter. I call myself a planster. When I begin a new project, I create a basic outline. For instance, an outline for my novel Unseen Motives might look something like this:
- A young woman learns of a great-aunt’s death and returns to her home town twenty years after her father was accused of murder and embezzlement.
- While there, she discovers something that leads her to believe her father was falsely accused. She decides to stay in town to prove his innocence.
- She discovers the identity of the real killer.
Notice I said how it might look. When I began writing the story, I didn’t have that much. I knew the premise and the outcome. I had a few character names, but several of them changed before I completed the first draft. During the course of writing, I renamed my fictional town. Some character’s roles (and personalities) changed.
When I finally finished the first draft over a year later, the manuscript was a convoluted mess. It was so bad that I put off editing it for another year. Even then, I had to psych myself into doing it one chapter at a time.
With my second and third novels, I had a little more structure, but they still took me a year to write.
Doing a detailed outline and meticulously planning every chapter makes me feel like I’m being smothered. I like to allow the story room to breathe. Too many times I’ve had characters dictate something different or have the story move in a different direction.
While the idea for Cold Dark Night had been in the back of my head for some time, I knew I wouldn’t succeed with NaNo unless I had a plan. I purchased a journal and began brainstorming in late summer before I even committed to the challenge.
I spent most of October planning. Yes, it pains me to say the word, but I managed to do a basic outline for the first five chapters. I created a list of character names and did character sheets for the major players. I did scene sketches, came up with the name of my fictional setting, and a title for the book. I even wrote the blurb! By November 1, I had a plan and was ready to go.
If you’re a planner, you already do some or all of these things. I once heard one writer say she spends almost a year outlining! (I would break out in hives at the thought, but that’s just me.) If you’re a panster, these few tips should help, but will still allow your story breathing room.
Next time, I’ll talk (write) about eliminating distractions.