Saturday, October 3, 2009

How NaNoWriMo Helped Me Find My Process

Like some of my friends on this blog, I am participating in the National Novel Writing Month next month - with this being my third year taking this challenge. I have "won" since 2007, but I feel this is the first year that I have a solid foundation for my story, thanks to NaNoWriMo.

If writing begins with the soul and the Muse, then the process begins with planning. Only after writing my first original manuscript did I realize the practical nature of fictional writing. Like anything worth pursuing, you gotta have a plan of action to reach your destination. In this case, details about the plot, the hero and heroine, the conflict that brings them together, their love story, and resolution are pretty important points of the journey. Putting all of this together, allowing the story to write itself, making the love story believable, the characters realistic . . . intricate pieces of a puzzle.

Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? It was for me. How in the world could I make sense of it all? How in the world could I have two characters that I made up get involved with one another, fall in love, and choose to stick together through the conflict, climax, and resolution? What would it take to get this without causing my brain to explode?

This year, I decided to learn how to prepare. I've read a few books, taken a couple online writing workshops, and paid attention to how I write in general. While I have not yet had the "ah-hah!" moment, the fact remains that I'm learning about my process. For me, it all starts with two characters; in my case, a hero and heroine. I might dream about them, or begin thinking of them on my long-ish route to and from work everyday.

However it happens, I get to know them, and write down everything I learn from how they brush their teeth at night to why one of them hated his/her mother. Sometimes this comes in bits and pieces; other times I feel like my brain is on fire from the sheer volume of information I compile. I'll spend quite a lot of time with them, and through spending time with my hero and heroine, I figure out how to tell their story.

Take the story I am currently writing (and will finish in November): My heroine moves to a small South Carolina town to start her life over. She has been through quite a lot, and I know all of this because I have spent quite a lot of time with her. My hero - the man she'll fall for - is the perfect "imperfect" man for her, because he has talked at length to me about how he's the kind of man who isn't scared to know what my heroine has been through. From my "conversations" with them, I have developed a basic storyline and plot, which serves as a foundation for what I intend to build.

Now that I think on it, writing is much like building a house, isn't it? You have your sketches and blueprints, dimensions for each room. Then you build the foundation, which will hold up everything else you put on top of it.

At the moment, I am writing random scenes with my characters, which serves two purposes: one, the scenes might make it into my first draft; and two, I'm learning how they interact with each other. Since I have another month to prepare, I shall devote time to specifics of conflict and plot, resolution and the "happily ever after". That way, this year's NaNoWriMo writing will be stronger and more organized.

(Incidentally, I hope this makes sense - being assaulted with allergy-induced headaches and sneezing isn't conducive to intelligent blogging about writing.)


Kate Diamond said...

I do something very similar, but I've added a writing group to the mix. I'm very social, so doing timed writes that inspire my mini-random scenes is both fun and helpful!

Andrea said...

I like the idea of writing random scenes; I think I will borrow that idea from you. I hope you're feeling better!

Samantha said...

I write random scenes as well. A lot of times I'll have an idea for a scene in my head that might be further down in the story than where I am. So I'll write it and just keep it on hand and see if it fits in when I get to that point in the story.

Sheila said...

I feel like such a slacker -- I haven't even decided on a project yet! Though I did get my list of ideas updated...

Kudos to you for all of your planning. Sounds like you have a good handle on your characters and where they want to go!