My NaNoWriMo Expeirence
I participated in NaNoWriMo (also known as National Novel Writing) for the first time this year.
For those who aren’t familiar, the challenge of NaNoWriMo is to write a complete, 50,000 word novel during the month of November. So I did that. Sort of.
By “sort of” I mean that while I did write the 50,000 words, I did not end of with a complete 50,000 word first draft. Instead, I stalled halfway in and realized that I needed to stop and regroup. The only way to do that as it turned out was to outline – and take a hard look at the genre I was writing in.
The Challenge of Outlining
I have always been a stream of consciousness sort of writer. This way of writing worked for me in the past, to a point, and I loved doing it.
Writing hot helped me write several complete, or almost complete manuscripts in multiple genres. These genres included category romance, paranormal romance, epic fantasy / romance and historical romance. The only problem with this approach was that I had structural issues with each of these manuscripts and was only able to write semi-coherent endings for two.
My inability to pull the various stream of consciousness plot lines I’d created into a coherent ending was frustrating to say the least. I did try outlining but I really didn’t like it.
NaNoWriMo and Outlining
To complete NaNoWriMo you must write 1667 words per day for 30 days straight. For me, and for most I think, this is a lot of writing. Focusing that hard on a single project is exhausting but it does help you see what you’re doing right – and most especially – what you’re doing wrong.
In my case, it became painfully obvious that what I was doing wrong was same thing I’ve been doing wrong for most of my writing life – writing myself into corners I couldn’t get out of.
So I decided to give outlining another shot.
In order to do this, I used two very helpful books – Save the Cat Writes a Novel and Romancing the Beat (affiliate links). Both helped. And, while I did have to cut about 75% of what I’d written, I’m happy to say I’m now on track to (hopefully) finish my newly revised first draft.
I’m crazy grateful to NaNoWriMO for that lesson. But it’s not all I learned.
I started NaNoWriMo with a premise for a novel that I hoped would become book one of a paranormal series. As the month unfolded, however, I began to see that this was not a paranormal novel with a romance arc. Instead it was a romance novel with a paranormal arc.
I’ve had that realization before. But this time it made an impression. I need structure in my writing, yes, but writing super structured plot-driven novels does not come naturally to me.
I do like to read them and according to conventional wisdom we should write what we read. But I like to read other things too. Including romance and paranormal romance and historical fiction and actual literary fiction.
But this does NOT mean, that I should be writing across all of these genres. Instead, romance and probably paranormal romance in particular, is my genre and has been my genre all along. And my experience during NaNoWriMo is helping me to finally come to terms with that.
For more on my problems with plotting please see: The Problem with Plotting