I first found out about NaNo after I randomly picked up Chris Baty’s book “No Plot, No Problem” at the book store in April 2011. I’d never heard of National Novel Writing Month before, and actually, my first thought after reading it was NOT to join, but to plan a similar “event” in May with my husband. We both wrote non-fiction books. But as I realized how relatively easy that word count was in one month (okay, not easy, but not the pathway to death’s door that I’d imagined it to be), I began to ponder doing NaNo in November, officially.
When I first signed up at the website, I didn’t participate much in the forums (through ignorance on my part!), so I went by Baty’s “rules” in the book, which were that you couldn’t start planning your book until a week before the start. I didn’t realize that a) the book had been written a good while before last year’s NaNo, so things had evolved, and b) that people actually started months, even years, in advance on their planning. So not me! I, being the good rule follower that I am, didn’t start plotting until a week before (although I did start some geographical and historical research to try to fine tune where my characters might go, starting on the 15th).
Surprisingly (although not, I guess, to Mr. Baty), that was plenty of time. I am somewhere between a pantser and a plotter, as I’ve written here before, and I’d decided to do a treasure hunt, so I figured out where my characters were going to go; how to connect them together; the main characters in both the 1680s plot and the present-day plot; and what they were searching for (Solomon’s Throne). Then, on November 1, I just started writing. I had enough of an outline that I didn’t/couldn’t go off on tangents, and I crossed 50,000 on November 16, and finished with 88,651 words and a complete 1st draft after 23 days of writing, on November 26.
Since it worked out pretty well that first time, I’ve done the same basic thing for the 3 other NaNo events I participated in this year (Script Frenzy and both Camp NaNos), and I don’t plan in any detail until the middle of the prior month. I do research – for June’s Camp, I was doing a historical romance set in the Civil War, a period of history I (purposefully) didn’t know much about. Because I was in Uganda most of May, I took some books on my Kindle and did research. I read diaries of both Confederate and Union girls; I (tried to) read some historical romance; I read some histories and took notes. When I got back on May 26 I put my planning into higher gear and was ready to go on June 1. (I do have a general story idea leading up to all this, I just don’t get very specific until closer to the time.)
My original plan for this November was another historical romance, this time set in WWII. I do know a good bit about WWII – we did a several month unit study on it early on in our homeschooling, plus my father-in-law was a doctor in the Pacific theater and my grandfather a pilot in the European theater, so there’s a natural curiosity. But still, I was planning on starting (today) some specific research on a) the Alsace region, b) the Resistance, and c) Messianic Jews in the first part of the 20th Century. Next week I’d start to hone in on my story, which was going to involve a family of Messianic Jews who flee Alsace to Paris in the late 1930s, then go to the UK, where they are recruited for the Resistance back in their homeland. In other words, I’d be making dozens of pages of hen-scratch notes.
But I decided on my recent retreat that I was a lot more interested and excited to write Book 2 of my YA series, to be titled Darian’s War, than this story (which will not be discarded, just put back in the to-do pile). This is unusual because I don’t usually like to do back-to-back books in the same genre. However, I left such a huge cliff hanger at the end of Book 1, Where the Ducks Went (my August Camp Nano book), that it feels more like I’m still writing the same book, and not writing something else in the same genre.
Because of this, my research will be, obviously, minimal. The story is set in an alternate earth which has the same history as ours up to the turn of the century, and I do bring in a good bit of history and a lot of geography. I already have my main characters, although the introduction of Darian as a person interacting in the story and not just someone who has to be freed from prison will mean developing his character. I will need to define the scope of this book, as I anticipate a Book 3 (after all, there are a lot of trilogies and not a lot of duogies, right?), so that I know where the entire story is going and where to end this one. (For the first book, that evolved as I wrote, it quickly became obvious that one book wasn’t going to get it done – particularly when YA is typically 60k words, and Book 1 is already over 79,000!)
What this means, ultimately, is that I have hours more time on my hands for the remainder of October than I’d planned, and that’s great for my to-be-read folder full of books. It’s also good for my burgeoning, post-surgery, exercise program. If I’m really on the ball, I might even get some meals made ahead for the crock pot or casseroles… Okay, that’s probably not realistic. But that could technically be considered NaNo planning.
What are you doing to plan? Have you been at it since last December, or are you panicking now because you don’t have anything but an idea nugget? Do you have reams of notes and outlines, or a wall full of stickie notes? And most importantly, have you ordered your NaNo tee-shirt or sweat shirt so you can feel like you’re working even when you’re “researching” by watching Dr. Who?
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