Friday, November 6, 2009
NaNoWriMo has begun, and I’ve got more than a little buzz going on. With so many other projects that were left in smoldering piles of trashcan waste, I worried that I might not make it when I started gearing up over a month ago. As it turned out, though, my worry hasn’t been fully realized. Gearing up for this run is exactly what I needed. While some can start with a premise, taking nothing more than a situation and churning out page after page, I found that I needed some sort of structure, even if it’s a legal pad with thoughts and quotes jotted down.
For this project, I first spent time in early morning walks, doing nothing but putting one foot in front of the other, taking one thought at a time. The more I thought, the more questions I asked, and the more those questions led to purchased books and preliminary research. Then, taking a cue from WB Greta Igl, I started mapping out a summary, my version taking it one chapter at a time. Thank goodness for word processors, because after mapping out one chapter I discovered that I needed two more somewhere earlier in the timeline. The summary isn’t complete yet, but I know the general direction I’m headed, and the summary will act like a guideline to keep me on the right track.
Finally, with some preparation completed—admittedly, I wish I had done more—I launched into this year’s NaNoWriMo with a better game plan. Thanks to my loving wife for being so understanding, I took a week’s worth of annual leave so that I could get jump start, turning my job day into a different kind of work day. And it has paid off. After five days now, I have already written over ten thousand words, putting one-fifth of my goal behind me.
Along the way, I have made some nice discoveries. First, I started capturing the rhythm and flow of the narrative voice. It’s similar to my short story voice, only more colorful and, at times, poetic. Also, while writing a few scenes I came to understand characters on a deeper level. One of those revelations came tonight while working on Chapter 5, which I decided to open up from the point of view of Maggie, my protagonist’s daughter. Taking a cue from Michael J. Vaughn, who posted an interesting entry to his blog, Writerville, I grabbed a dictionary and jotted down ten random words (Michael only suggests five). Looking at those words, an image crystallized, and I searched out an old Peter Gabriel song which led me to think more about Maggie. What I knew going into the novel was that she was angry. What I had previously thought about her anger, though, barely touched the real issues. Now, taking all of it together—the word game, the song, the new thoughts—my mind went back to a comment Maggie made in Chapter 2. “So, that’s what she meant,” I said; and capitalizing on that revelation, I quickly penned down the first sentence of the chapter. From there, the rest has flowed, and now I know where I need to go with this character, the relationship with her father, and the related character arcs.
So with one-fifth of my goal behind me, with the deeper revelations of character I’ve found, and with the renewed hope that I can actually do this, I am stoked. The embers are blistering hot, and I am ready to push ahead.