Shadows of November City

The Other Siege of November

So I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year after spectacularly messing it up last year, forgetting the year earlier and finding out about it a few years ago.   This time I’m tackling it with a battle plan a year in the making.

Power-Point-less Battle Plan in the Event of Horrible Events

Unless something horrible happens, I figure this should work.  I spent most of the year on and off working on it so I can focus on just writing and outputting content.

Preparation

A Year ago I started writing for NaNoWriMo on my own, but instead I ended up writing a whole series of outlines, summaries, partial scenes and what not before I managed to cobble together just the first draft of one story.  While I feel my writing is like Neapolitan ice cream (except it comes in 3 flavors of terrible), I love that first draft to death.   I sometimes just sit and re-read the first draft because just making it is a personal achievement for me.

This draft is my first step in preparation because my goal in NaNoWriMo is to write the first draft of next story.

Returning to all the outlines and summaries, I have that story picked out and outlined.  Needs some work, however.  I think I’ll end up short a scene or two, but I’ll fix that on the fly.

I’m going to set up a small area that’s private to write.  Sadly my plans to set up a proper writing area isn’t going to happen just yet, but I have a small table in a quiet corner of the house that’ll do just fine.

Plan

In my first story, I wanted to tell three basic tales.

  1. One of Courage vs. Reason.
  2. The second was Action vs. Abuse.
  3. And the third was Help vs. Work.

Simple stories about each, but each one would have consequences.

In the second story, I’m focuses on a set of three similar stories.  Simple journeys for each set of characters.  And honestly, every story should stick to that, too many stories these days seem to get bogged down int he epic “Save the [INSERT NOUN], Save the World!” gimmick.  Build to epic later, but now, let’s focus on a simple journey because I find seeing how characters grow and change and struggle more interesting than saving the world.  Saving the world isn’t a plot twist or whatever, it should be the result of a characters long and meaningful struggle.

For for the second story

  1. Flight vs. Home, I have a character who will spend most of the story leaving, only to face a choice to go home or run forever.
  2. Past vs. Future, No not time travel.  I have two characters whom both have a past useful to the present problems in the story, but their involvement will unravel the other two stories.
  3. Monsters vs. Empathy.  These might end up just being mini-stories with in the story itself, but I don’t like or believe in villains.  People do things for a reason, while some yes are truly evil and cruel people out to do bad for their own pleasure, I don’t want my villains to be only that.  Some of the bad things that happen in people’s life are just because people who can help don’t won’t to.

I might be over planning, but then again, I want to keep things simple and trying to keep what I’m writing about a secret until the second draft adds an air of mystery to it all.

Serious Now

No Heroes, no Villains.  What does that leave me with?  A bunch of screw ups, fuck ups and failures.  But I’m not planning to fail, I have a plot I’m going to stick two.  The eventually goal is to be published after all, and I’m not writing a comedy.

One of the flaws I noticed in my writing is that I would retread and check what I just wrote instead of moving on.  I keep ending up in talking sessions where characters have to bring other characters up to speed.   This happens in life, of course, but it does nothing to escalate and advance the story.  My goal this time around is to escalate events each time I end up in a talking session to cut it short.

People in real life don’t work with all the facts, so why should my imaginary characters?

No one should be bored with what they write, nor what they read.  I know where my story starts, I already roughed out two of the endings.   They are dramatically different places in the story and I think I have a good journey ready with terrible consequences.

No Body Likes X/Y/Z

In a story, there needs to be a real threat the heroes are going to fail.  We know and expect them to win the day, save the girl and stop the evil wizard.  But these days, those guys are boring so we get sold Rogues and Anti-Heroes, but they are kinda stale too.  Now all the rage is taking the bad guy and have them win the day, save the girl and stop the evil wizard.

Allow me to vomit a bit.

It’s been done and burned out fairly fast to me.  So my main characters are not the best, brightest and richest people in the world.  I don’t need or want that for them, there is nothing appealing to me in having it all because there is nothing more to get.   It’s like market saturation for characters.

So let’s get someone who is terrible at their job, but wants to try better.  Someone who isn’t that smart and struggles in a position that demands more.  And maybe someone else who doesn’t have any wealth or money, someone with no place above the poverty line.

Those sound like real characters, people who might get our attention.

This is an Adventure, Not a Chore.

One of the things that really disrupted my writing was writing as a chore.  Yes, write every day, but when I forced myself to thrown town 250 to 750 words at least, it became a chore.  I wrote best in bursts.  Somed ays I might write a few lines or a bit of a scene one night, or I’d sit down and churn out 3,000 words instead.

I wrote worse when I forced it.   When I forced it, I had no idea what I was writing, what purpose it served and how I wanted to do it.  Often I ended up staring at the screen with nothing on it.   For Nanowrimo, I need something around 1700 words a day to hit goal, so it’s going to be insane.   I know I’m going to be pushing this at the 11th hour because if I burn out, I might lose a week worth of action on writing like last year.

For the record, I started the first story draft  in November 2013, with the story outline and framework starting several years before that.   I finished that first draft in September 2014!  Yeah, I have a laziness issue.  In fact, I’m writing this post with just 6 hours left on the clock!

So if I can’t write, I won’t.  I’ll do something else, go for a walk, exercise (EXERCISE) , play a video game, or something.  But I won’t hurt myself and my story by forcing it.   Instead of writing for a median or average goal, I’m going to write out a full scene.  It might by 750 words or it might be 7500 words, but that’s what I’ll do.

This should be fluid, not mechanical or else it’ll read that way.

No Plan Survives Engagement with the Enemy

Such truth in that, everyone knows it.  No amount of planning is going to survive if I find my story is better served by travelling a different path. Just like forced writing quota’s, a story synopsis can lead a story right off a cliff.  I like to structure each story in 3 or 4 chapters, then each a chapter into 3 or 4 scenes.

Beginning, Middle, Climax, End.

That’s simple enough, right?

Another thing is I’m not throwing things out, if it doesn’t work, I’ll bank the idea/scene/whatever.  It might be handy later.  I learned this one from the first story or I can drop it when I’m done.  Who knows.  Hell, I created a whole character because I had to throw out one line in one and the story was better for it!

It wasn’t part of the plan, but I made it work for me.

Journey Not Yet Written

Yeah, I’m not expecting to write the great american novel here.  This post is already turning into that and I’ve already established I think I suck at writing.  When I wrote the first story, I wrote it both with an ending and a beginning in mind.  Each scene kinda has that idea in it.  The last scene of the last chapter reads just like that, an end.  The last page of the story is the beginning.

However, the last page isn’t the beginning of the my second story, it’s the other one.

What I really, really, just want to do is spend time with these characters more, getting to know them, watching their struggles, and figuring out their minds. A first draft isn’t the finished product, after all, it’s just one step on a difficult mountain.   I figure after I tell this second story, I’ll go back and spend time on the first story’s second draft or roughing out the third story some more.

Just between the story outline I originally wrote so long ago, and the draft of the first story, the plan for the second one and the outline of the next, I can see how far apart they are already diverging.  But I know which one I’m going to spend more time with and living in.

I’m looking forward to it!