Welcome to my last post of PlaNo-WriMo! I’m so excited for NaNoWriMo to begin. 😀 Lucky for us, it begins on Friday this year,
so after we’re all done Trick-Or-Treating so we can all hop in and start writing at midnight.
During the month of November, I’ll be continuing this series, renamed S-NoWriMo, because it’s a pretty awesome bad pun, if I do say so myself. I don’t really have any of the topics I’m going to post on in November planned out yet, so if you want your question answered (I’m no published author, but I’m a NaNo veteran so I guess that makes me qualified?) shoot me an email, post something in the comments, or throw something in my Tumblr Ask Box. Honestly. Even if you want me to talk about magical rainbow-pooping unicorns, I will. Because I have no idea what I’ll be writing about.
And without further ado… today’s post.
Well, if you’re anything like me, you will buckle down to write on November 1st, all snug and cozy with your cup of tea and blanket, get about 1,000 words in, look back at your outline, and see this:
… Ehehehehe. Blanket gone. Tea gone. WRITER BRAIN OVERLOAD.
And this is where you will start to panic. And rightly so. You’ve been planning for–what, a whole month?–pumped, excited, SO ready to see where everything falls into place in your zeroth draft (because, come on, guys, NaNoWriMo NEVER gives you a first draft; it gives you a Ground Zero), and then, on the very first day, your plot takes a sudden, undecided twist, and your careful planning is thereby declared USELESS.
Okay. Maybe I’m over exaggerating. Maybe it won’t be the first of November. Maybe it’ll be the second. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth. Or the fifteenth. Or the twenty-ninth.
(Or maybe it won’t happen at all, but then you are an entirely new breed of writer I have never seen before and I will need to collect some ink and manuscript samples, STAT.) Anywho, there is a 99.999999999% likelihood that there will come a point in the month of November, where you will deviate from your outline is some small, tiny, unnoticeably minute fashion, and your outline will not help you. In the best case, your character will say “fantastic” instead of “fantabulous.” In the worst case, you will throw your outline, your blanket, and your wonderfully-warm tea out the window, and then jump after them off of a fifty-story building. Without a parachute.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume you’ve run into the worst case. That you’ve swan-dived out the window of a luxurious hotel room because some crazy notion has taken hold in your character’s mind.
It’s normal. That’s the number one thing to realize.
Do you know why the majority of us read? To get a thrill. We live inside, hermit-like, most of us afraid to emerge from under our rocks. So when we write, we want our readers to get that same thrill that we get from other, published novels. So our solution is often to swan-dive. As we write, our characters develop in a way they never could on an outline or in our heads. Their interactions with other characters become more solid, more real. They really do begin to take root in your brain. And sometimes, they decide to take control of your body, too. And they propel you out of the window.
Number two to realize is that it’s a LOT less deadly to be swan-diving during NaNo. Why? Simply because you have less time. That idea that took root in your head and made your swerve off the course will still be there five days later. Because you only have 30 days, your character’s voice will not die out and take the plot line with it. It’ll stay there, just buried underneath the surface. There’s less of a chance you’ll forget where you’re going, and that’ll allow you to drive the shortest route there.
Number 2.5 is that swan-diving is good. It makes us really talk to our characters. Instead of sticking them in a predetermined set of events, they’re choosing their own path. They’re developing and taking control. Which is, surprisingly, a really, really good thing.
#3: Humans are really narrow-minded. So chances are, your subconscious is talking to you. (No, don’t try to talk back. It just makes you look kinda crazy.) Humans try to fit into these rules and standard that, seemingly, every novel has to conform to. It probably didn’t even cross your mind that starting at the end and working backwards would work 50x better for your novel.
Precaution 1: At the same time, make sure you’re not stealing. Our brains tend to pick up on plots we like and think are good, and, well, try to twist them into something we like. During my Percy Jackson phase, my characters were all demigods named Percy or Annabeth. That’s not being creative. That’s trying to get sued.
A Thing to Remember: Everything’s going to be fine. You can work out an alternate ending. You can go back and use the delete key, if you wish. But chances are, the ending your character is taking you to is gonna be a whole lot better than that one you spent a month trying to come up with. (But don’t throw that out right away. Because remember how I said some people just sort of peek out the window but don’t really dive? If you turn out to be that sort of person… well. You are going to be in trouble.) If you run into a dead end, that’s not the end of the world. You have great characters. You probably have a fantabulous plot and a story idea at least 50 people on this planet are going to like.
Q: Who knows the story better, you or your characters? A: Your characters.
So if they want you to swan dive, swan dive. If you want to take a chance and your character is screaming at you to do it, do it. Because those characters are all there. And they’ll catch you before you hit the ground.