NaNoWriMo 2016 – The Prep

I went and checked my NaNoWriMo stats and I have attempted this challenge since like, 2010.

Six years, y’all.

But you know, despite feeling like a nano ‘failure’, I don’t feel like I actually have failed in the final goal of being a better writer.

The first year I tried to do Nano I went into it with no prep. I had discovered the challenge a few weeks before it was going to start and got really pumped up. I came up with an idea and I just WENT for it, no planning, no prep, no characters, no plot… just a story idea that moved forward.

And I made it about 6 to 10k (I sincerely can’t remember) into the challenge and quit after about a week because November is a hell of a month for a college student to try and write a novel. Between papers and school and work? Nah bro. Didn’t happen. My story had no tension, had no real conflict and basically just curled up and died on the page because there was nothing there to hold it up.

The next couple of years I’d try again and I’d inevitably fail.

I believe I say ‘screw this’ last year, but I tried to just keep writing…and got disappointed and gave up.

That was frustrating as heck. I keep trying and I keep failing. I keep attempting this project that I’ve witnessed thousands of people complete around me and…this year it clicked.

For me, it will never be about completing a 50,000 word story in 30 days. It WILL be about the journey. It WILL be about not giving up. It WILL be about taking a deep breath and reviewing what doesn’t work from the past. And it will be about forgiving myself for not being like everyone else and accepting that I’m like myself instead.

This year I have a story I’ve been working on for a while that I’m going to work on. I’ll log my words and push myself to get beyond where I stalled out last time. This year will be about not letting those around me rush through but also about letting the mistakes happen and just getting through the book. This year will be about running the race.

My NaNoWriMo prep goes beyond the preparation of a book and about the prep of the writer.

How I’m re-learning outlining

I’m, by my very sporadic and impulsive nature, a pantser.

It started back, probably, when I was playing RPGs with my family as a tabletop gamer. See, you’d come into a game and stuff would happen and story would be instantly created from those reactions. Role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons were my first foray into making my own stories and so from there I began to write stories from an instinctive place.

This worked fine for the little fanfictions that I would create in middle school and high school but when it came to actually trying to get through a big project, this method has, sadly, failed me.

Yet, I’m not ready to say that I’m an outliner yet…more like, I’ve figured out how to be a Tailored Pantser. I still get a thrill from creating a story out of instinct and don’t really find outlines to be more than just the barest of lines in the shifting sands of my imaginary beach, the waves of my impulses and story sense rewriting whatever I have plotted for the future of my protagonist.

With that said, I have discovered that Deborah Chester’s book on the Fantasy Fiction Formula has completely changed the way I look at stories and outlining. (You can check out her book HERE on amazon.) Specifically, her SPOOC method of story mapping has been insanely helpful and it’s what I’m going to talk about here today. If you want more than the brief summary that I’m going through, I highly recommend buying her book as it’s been a god sent to fixing my tension and conflicts.

So, let’s take a quick walk through her suggestions so that you can see what I’ve been doing to prepare for my 52 Week Short Story Challenge for 2017.

This is specifically for short stories mind you, but it can be expanded for novels.

First, I decide what my basic idea or story question is for the project.

I’ll take a prompt from the /r/WritingPrompts to begin our question:

“You join a pantheon of the Gods, only it’s just like being at entry level in a corporation.”

Cool. We have our ‘idea’. Now we need to know the following things so that we can begin to map a story. Specifically, we need Situation, our Protagonist, our Objective, aka what we’re trying to achieve, our Opponent and finally our Crisis.

For this story I’d probably map it out as the following:

S: When she was added into the Greek Pantheon

P: Agave

O: Knew she wanted to become a goddess of farming so she can restore her war torn home

But

O: When her supervisor Demeter finds out that she is in love with one of her favorite nymphs

C: can she keep her own life from turning into another tragedy.

Now, this isn’t specifically an outline per say, but it’s a start of what you’re going to going for in terms of a map. You still need to figure out your story beats, aka, the scenes where Agave tries and fails. You’ll need to flesh out characters and make sense of exactly what level of power all the gods and goddesses have. BUT at least now you have determined your opponent and have someone for your protagonist to struggle against.

I find that if I at least know what the struggle is, I can get at least build from there.

I am currently creating a ‘SPOOC’ outline for all 52 of my short stories I’m planning for next year so I can at least have something to follow when it comes to my insane 1 story a week challenge. I get the creativity of running through conflicts and major events with the help of the ‘SPOOC’ to remind me of what my stakes are and remind me of the goal I’m trying to achieve.

Let me know if this is helpful to anyone. And good luck with mapping out your stories.

NaNoWriMo, Twitter and Being an Extroverted Writer

So much of successful writing requires you to go off alone and play, intensely and vigorously with imaginary people. You must, from nothing but your own imagination, create vivid and complete people from your imagination. Then, from that same imagination you also must create a scenario for them not only to fail repeatedly in, but one that will temper who they are and make them someone greater in the end. All this in hopes that (at least for me) by sharing it out with the world in a finished and polished format that I can connect with people.

Because while the act of writing and habit of creation is a solo and internal process, I am not an individual who does well as a solo and internal human.

Myke Cole, a new writer I discovered at DragonCon this year, said it best in a panel: It’s hard to be an extrovert and a writer.

Y’all, I don’t even read military fantasy and I bought a copy of his Gemini Cell on the way home from Atlanta to read in the car.*

With my gripes about being a person who doesn’t like to sit alone and only talk at herself, I have come up with coping methods.

First, there is Twitter. Twitter is short and not too involved so I can chirp out something here and there at people using writing tags and not feel like I’m being a nuisance! Then, we have the writers community over at Ally Bishop’s Cerulean Project who are a daily inspiration to keeping my habits on check.

But the biggest and most community oriented writing event of the year is coming up: National Novel Writing Month.

Now, if you’re a long time follower of the blog, you’re aware of my very constant problems with completing NaNoWriMo. I have yet to ever start and finish a story within a 50,000 word limit and most of that was purely because I couldn’t habitially write daily. I tried to work on that A LOT last year by making myself do streaks. I even managed, for a few months, to keep up a 100 day streak before I went on vacation to Mexico. I have yet to top that many days of solid writing but hey, I’m back on the horse and knowing it can be done is just as empowering as anything else.

NaNoWriMo is such a great season of the year for any writer. Because suddenly, people who might never have thought of themselves as writers, people who might be like me and dread the thought of sitting alone in a room for hours just to talk to themselves, have others around who are on a cheer leading wagon of support and encouragement.

That’s precious beyond measure.

If you’re planning on joining over there, feel free to add me as a writing buddy. I’m dracoangelica over on the NaNoWriMo site. (Click Here for short link) Leave a comment below with your buddy name and I’ll add you back.

I am a rebel this year and as I already have a project that I’d like to try and finish, I’m taking NaNoWriMo as a time to concentrate and add on to what I already have. It’s almost the end of the year and I haven’t quite hit my new years resolution to FINISH a novel length project yet and I feel like this could be the year that I do it if I just keep pushing.

So join in! I look forward to seeing what everyone achieves.

 

*he’s a really cool dude in person by the way and his book has some damn good tension. I’m about to become a fangirl, I can tell