This week in Shit I Learned During NaNo 2015: how not to be a hot mess!
Just kidding. (Sort of.)
One of my biggest problems when I write is keeping consistent momentum. I'm either fingers flying and keys on fire on my laptop, OR I stare at a blank page or my last paragraph for the entire day. NaNoWriMo was a great exercise for me because it forced me to just keep writing no matter how bullshitty the words in my head became once they hit the page.
A couple things that really get in my way when I'm writing are my time management skills and falling into the research rabbit hole. Both of these, of course, are tied into my inherent pantser nature. (I don't know why I'm a pantser, for the record. In real life, I'm ridiculously organized and I'm definitely That Person with A Ten-Year Life Plan, a Plan B, and a Plan C to boot.) During NaNo, I learned just how interconnected planning, time management, and the research rabbit hole are.
It all has to do with being ~prepared~. *insert wave arms here*
Before NaNo, everything I had ever written, from pieces for my high school creative writing class to the first couple drafts of Generation Y to all the shitty fanfiction that got me started writing in the first place, had all been written so thoroughly by the seat of my pants that I didn’t know there was another way to go about writing at all. (Essays notwithstanding, that is.)
Over the last few years, I have consumed every blog post by every published author I have ever come across (yes, that’s a metric shit ton) and I’d read enough about this mysterious method called “planning” that for NaNo this year, I thought I’d give it a try.
Hot damn, it saved my life.
I spent the majority of October putting together my novel bible and building my world, my characters, and my plot by following guidelines that I thought would help me.
Now is a good time, I think, to point out that, while my world-building was solid, it was the only thing about my planning that was solid. I started with three very basic outlines, one for the main plot and one each for my two MCs, but they were very bare-bones because I knew I needed the room for my mind to work. Thank God I did this, too, because I hit a wall at about the 20K word mark, spent three days wallowing in self-pity, then remembered I had planned out so much more and that, hello! I could skip around! So I hopped around from day to day and just wrote whatever scenes came to me for the majority of NaNo. #PlanningIsNotSoHard
I also had a rough idea for my characters’ personalities and, with few exceptions, no idea what anybody looked like. But I did have a collection of names, mostly gathered off of a couple web sites that listed them as ancient Egyptian, and that saved my ass. I didn’t have to research a single name!
Until I used up my list. All of it. Not that it was that terribly big to begin with, but still.
I was so scared that I would end up going down the research rabbit hole, oh my god!
But then I remembered something else I had read regarding time management and the rabbit hole written by a seasoned NaNo’er: placeholder words!
Basically, the writer chose a word that was unlikely to crop up in their MS naturally and used it in place of peoples’ names, plopped it down in a sentence where further research would be needed, etc. While the genius who came up with this idea used “elephant”, that wouldn’t work for me, so I chose “banana” instead.
Not only did I not have to go anywhere near my Google Chrome tab, but it saved me so much time just in general. I know I’ve got at least a half dozen characters named Banana (including sisters named Banana 1 and Banana 2), a few locations named Banana, a horse named Banana, and several spots where I dropped banana in because I knew further research would be needed, but I didn’t have time to do it.
I am so glad I spent October practically living in the research rabbit hole. I had enough information, from the planning and novel bible I had done to all the time-saving tips, that I was prepared when things came along to try and drive me off Momentum Road.
All this said, I think I can safely say that fast-drafting is not my thing. Especially not when juggling 2 jobs and packing to move. Yikes.
How about y’all? What was your NaNo experience like? Any tips or tricks you figured out that you’re itching to share? I’d love to hear ‘em!