Patterns in my writing

Finally, I won NaNoWriMo this year. It was a close call, and that makes 2 years out of 6 (batting .300? I’ll take it.) I’m starting to notice similarities between last year (my first year, and one of my first mostly complete stories) and this year as well as processes that seemed to work for me in terms of productivity. Just want to jot them down for future reference, I guess so I can do some research if I end up getting stuck next year.

1. I started pretty much with just two or three characters and the concept. After I wrote a few scenes to see what the characters would be like, I ended up writing a synopsis, or summary, of the scenes that I wanted to write out more completely. It was easier to get the plot flowing as a general overview rather than a minute-by-minute recap. Last year, I started with pretty much the same thing and really wound up lost in backstory and endless “character development” scenes that really took the story nowhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if I’m going to invest 50,000 words and a ridiculous amount of time, it should be more with scenes that will be useful to the story in some way.

2. That being said, even though I had the synopsis to guide me (I would just pick a scene and write it minute-by-minute until it was done), I still ended up overhauling the synopsis a few times. In each one less of what I had written previously fit with the new plot. I suppose that’s part of my creative process though. Regardless of planning sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you want them to. I think it’s more fun to keep things flexible. In the end I don’t mind too much, since I know I’m going to have to have about 10 times as many words before I finish the first draft. (Wow.)

I need to clarify that I lost the first four years I tried this. Last year was my make or break year; if I didn’t win I was going to give up completely. But I won so now I’m screwed. I was also unemployed, which is a terrible way to take on a challenge that you expect to keep up once you are otherwise occupied for 50 or so hours a week. (Don’t discount the travel time!)

On a stranger note, two things happened both this year and last that I’m sure had something to do cosmically with my winning.

1. Near the end of the story, after having muddled in a sea of confusion, dead ends and frustrating nowhere sequences for nearly three weeks, I finally muddled enough that everything became clear, and I knew what direction the story would take. Last year, I had one major breakthrough very near the end, and had to reconstruct not only a few characters as well as more clearly define the ending. It was panic inducing but also gave me the energy I needed to make the goal.

This year, I had two. One was a major character that would completely change the tone of the story. Or so I thought. But she ended up being boring–until I made her the go-fer for the evil nemesis, whose very existence was the second AHA moment I had. Once I figured that out, I hashed out a whole new synopsis–good for nearly 4,000 words– and then all of a sudden it became a children’s book series. I’m still fuzzy on some of the details, especially regarding the ending, but I’ll just muddle on it a little longer–particularly the evil characters– and I’m sure something will happen.

2. I was writing in a public place with less than a week to go, trying futilely to concentrate and/or pull something out of thin air to write about. And then a random stranger walked in, sat down in front of me and fell asleep. Then woke up and walked away. Seriously. Last year was at the Cherry Hill library, when I was at about 40,000 words and three days left. This year, I was in Wegman’s cafe with about 35,000 and a week left. I had the “eureka moment” somewhere around the time when these people appeared. I am convinced each one had something to do with my winning both years, and I’m hoping that sometime near the end of November next year, the same thing will happen and bring with it the same good luck.

Two other good things that helped: meeting up with other writers. Thanks Janice Wilson and the S. Jersey NaNo group for the write-ins. Magical Rainbow Unicorn Horses, Assemble! Also the Municipal Liasons this year were FANTASTIC and totally motivating: three cheers for LadyBard and JamieMoon!

Thanks Julia Hays and Terri Erbacher for this year’s inspirational random plot lines and characters. Excerpts soon, hopefully before the end of the month!

I guess this makes me a “pants-er.” 😀


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