That Time of Year Approaches Again, And This Time, I Have a Plan

By that, I mean NaNo, and, once again, for me, this year will be NaNot. I love the sense of camaraderie and support, and the mere idea of meeting other writers to get together in person and get some story down, no censors, no edits, etc, gets my motor running. Focusing on word count, however, shuts it off all together. So, not the best program for me, especially when my focus is getting not one, but two, manuscripts to The End.

This time, instead of whingeing about how NaNo and I are not a good fit at present, I’d rather focus on what does work for me. Working on multiple projects is a big part of that. If one isn’t working out, I can switch gears, focus on the other and trust that the first one will take steps to sort itself while my conscious attention is targeted elsewhere. What I do for relaxation when I’m not working on novel, novella or articles, is also writing-related, so, basically, I either do not have an off switch or I taped that sucker in the on position at some point.

Which brings me to my next thing – if I’m that busy, why don’t I have elbenty bajillion new release? I could cite the domestic tornado chains that have whipped through our family of late, and that’s part of it, but that’s not a part I can control. What I can control is the fear. Fear that I’m not good enough. That I missed my chance. That nobody wants to read the kinds of stories I have to tell, so shut up, step away from the computer and wet Swiffer the linoleum because people track stuff in on a regular basis, and that all shows on light colored flooring. Well, they (and I) do, and it does, but here’s the rub (pun intended) – housework makes my story brain chug into motion. The trick is getting that motion all the way from Once Upon a Time to They Lived Happily Ever After (though with a few bruises and smoke rising from the ruins of collateral damage.)

One thing I’ve learned from failed (and won) NaNo attempts is that I need to focus on the story, not the writing. Counting words completely derails my brain, reminds me that adverbs are bad, keeps an eye out for the size of my vocabulary pool, seizes on minutiae, and I can’t hear the voice of the story and characters anymore. This is why we can’t have nice things, and by nice things, I mean completed manuscripts. If I shut the inner critic, with her clicker that logs every word in some mental spreadsheet, away, I can let the metaphorical horse have its head. Get the bones down, take notes, as it were, on the movie that plays in my head. Most times, that’s going to be in bullet points, present tense, riddled with (figure this detail out later kinds of notes to myself) and a big ol’ jumbled mess that probably makes sense only to me. Also to Critique Partner Vicki, who is used to this by now.

The other big takeaway I’ve had is that I write best in layers. Get the bones down, add some muscle, add some sinew, add some veins and capillaries and aortas, add flesh and all the rest, and we’re good to go.  Probably not in that order, so good thing I am not employed in the medical sciences. What I’m going for at present is a bare bones draft, done my way. Can I get a scene outlined every weekday? Not counting words, but putting down my bullet points, from the movie screen in my head, onto the page. Laying the foundation, beginning to end, putting the jumbled mass of notes into order (organization! See, already fun, right there. I love organizing things.) I used to number the scenes in my outlines; not sure when I stopped doing that. Whoops, yes, I do, but probably time to give that another go and see where it takes me.

After a long examination of how I work best (at present; process can be an ever changing entity, which only proves that it’s alive) I’m comfortable with my layers, and not so comfortable with the big stack of partial manuscripts that piled on each other in the interim. This doesn’t mean that every partial will make it all the way; some aren’t viable, or need big changes, like transport to a setting that does not make me gnash my teeth and fuss against the bonds of the “shoulds” that come with that particular territory. Instead, it’s time to blaze the trail that gets me where I want and need to go.

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4 thoughts on “That Time of Year Approaches Again, And This Time, I Have a Plan

  1. NaNo helped so much in getting that “movie in my head” (loved your words) down on paper. Will I be doing it again this year? Eh, maybe. Will I win? Probably not. I too must multi-task, it’s my brains way of keeping things fresh and exciting. I find it incredibly hard to breath life into what I’m doing if I’m not excited about it. This goes for my paintings as well, I often have several going at the same time, and I love them all.

    • NaNo is wonderful for a lot of people, and I’m glad I tried it. Right now, I need to hop back and forth and do my layers, so I’ll be cheering on my NaNo friends from my giant pile of notebooks and pens.

      I flip between art journal pages, too. Hopping back and forth keeps the energy high.

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