I just received a cheerful little letter from the NaNoWriMo folks about the harsh reality that is the second week of trying to crank out 50k words in a month. They’re so sweet, full of understanding and encouragement and they have famous authors write letters to you to help you keep going.
How am I doing? In summary: not so good.
If I go strictly by the metrics of “reaching 50k by maintaining a writing schedule of 1,667 words a day” then I am way-failing. I have about 6k words in the bank when I should be somewhere around… much higher than that. At least ten thousand words higher than that. Getting that little “WINNER!” tag on my NaNo account for 2013 is quickly slipping out of my hands.
But if I go by another metric (which I realize is a total cop-out, yeah I know), then maybe I’m not doing so badly? My intention with this year’s NaNoWriMo is to crack out a first draft of a novel. While word count is a vital part of that as it indicates that I’m actually writing a story, I’m taking a slightly different tack. This year I’m incorporating the Snowflake Method into my NaNo. If you’re unfamiliar with the Snowflake Method, I highly suggest reading up on it. It’s a simple, yet in-depth way of outlining a story.
I tend to be an exploratory author, by which I mean I just sort of make things up as I go rather than adhering to an existing outline. That’s a fine method for short stories, where I can stand at the beginning of my plot and find the end within sight, but it don’t float to well with novel-length stories. There’s world building to be done, subplots to keep track of, character motivations to keep intact, and all the fun stuff that quickly becomes overwhelming if you try and keep it in your head. I make daily errand lists to keep track of what chores I need to do, so why not adapt my love of list-making to my writing? An outline is a little bit like a to-do list for a plot, right? Sure.
So far the outline is helping. Writing down one-sentence summaries of characters seems dippy, but it forces me to describe minor characters further than I normally would. If I spend a month in a writing experiment that leads me to a solid first draft then that’s good enough for me. I’ll be hung if you don’t find me scrabbling to churn out 20k words on the 29th-30th, but for now I’m content.
(And I’m putting this entry towards my word count. WHAT? It counts as a warm up exercise!)