I know it’s a bit early to reflect on my NaNoWriMo journey; it has only been three days after all. That’s not the reflection I’m thinking of.
No, this is more about that age old question: how do you write? Are you a pantser or a planner?
The first novel I ever wrote took me seven years. I wrote it as my project for a novel writing program I did (by mail). One of the early lessons was to plot out the book. I spent days plotting it before I wrote a single line. It was gruelling, but ultimately worthwhile. I hadn’t ever written anything as long before and the plotting really helped me to get the story written.
Yes, it did take me seven years to write the book, one chapter submitted to my instructor at a time but I finished it. That book, after many rounds of revision, was even published fairly recently. One day I hope to write book two and maybe even book three.
Only time will tell.
The second novel I wrote happened two weeks after the first novel was complete. It was also my first NaNoWriMo novel. I wrote it in 22 days. A major improvement over the seven years.
Mind you, I didn’t take ANY time to plot it. I wrote at a furious pace and, if memory serves, it lacked a fair amount of cohesiveness. When NaNoWriMo was over that book also went through several rounds of rewrite before it was ultimately picked up by a press. That led to several more rounds of rewrites that saw about a third of the book thrown away to be replaced with brand-new material.
Since then, I’ve employed bit of both methods in my writing. Sometimes I have a pretty complete outline before I start. Other times, I have some solid story ideas roughly sketched. Even other times I sit down and simply write out whatever idea I currently have.
The only thing that has always remained relatively constant is, I write linearly. In other words, I start at the beginning and write in the order the story occurs until I’m done.
That has been true until this year. Things are very different this year.
The book I’m working on is Mik Murdoch 5. I started it two years ago and it really hasn’t gotten good traction. For a number of reasons, I’ve started the book several times, not liked what I wrote, discarded that and started again. All of those attempts have been with some plotting but always linear writing.
I picked up the book again for NaNo with the intention of finally finishing it. I decided to try something different.
I’m writing the big scenes that come to me first, in whatever order I conceive them. I already know this method is going to require a LOT of cleanup and rewriting. I’m going to have to add the connective tissue between scenes. I’m going to have to put in the tags that reference things to come and things that have already happened.
Will it be painful to edit? Probably. But some of the ideas I’m getting for the big scenes and plot twists are pretty fun and I’m enjoying writing them. It is also helping me march down the road of novel completion.
We’ll see where it takes me.