Every (camp) Nano, I will try some new things to try to optimise my writing process. This year, I wanted to try tracking my writing sprints instead of words. It’s much harder for me to get those 1667 words on the page (if 50k is the goal) than it is to schedule a few writing sprints. Another big difference has been my plotting process or everything I did before I started this first draft.
The biggest difference this month will be my goal. I want to do 130 writing sprints. My goal for this novel is 50k words, and I calculated my words per sprint average earlier. It’s about 400 words per 15 minutes, my ideal sprint length. That results in 125 sprints, but I want to add in a buffer, so I ended up with 130 sprints. I know there will be days when I can barely write anything, but if I complete the sprint and stay focused, I should be able to get at least a few hundred words out. And that’s still better than nothing.
Sometimes the time you spend on something is worth just as much or even more than just going at it until you hit that goal. This all depends on the person and the day. Let’s not forget even the most prolific writers have bad days and their 2k words a day might take them six hours instead of the two hours they did the day before.
The Nano burnout was real for me. After three weeks of forcing out words, I’d get tired. I want to see if I can keep this up better. I’ve done three sprints a day since July started with a few exceptions. It’s not enough to get all of the sprints done, but my average so far has been much higher than 400 words. So I hope I’ll THE END before I finish my 130th sprint.
Plotting, outlining, and other tools
Another thing I did differently before drafting is the level of preparation. I already had a cover for this book way before I even had a summary or named the main character. This visual helped me to find the story. I wrote the summary not long after that, but part of the world-building for the story I did in the short story Undine’s Awakening. I was exploring Marella’s character but also her powers and the other inhabitants of the sea. I finished the short story before I properly plotted the novel.
What’s the difference between writing a summary, plotting, and outlining? Well, there are a few different definitions so I’ll give you mine. A summary is just like how it sounds, a brief description of the story. It’s the kind of thing you’d include in a query letter. This is not your blurb. You don’t tell this to someone interested in your book. Why? Because the summary includes the plot twists, the secrets, the ending. You put everything in there, the whole story.
Now, plot is close to the same. It’s also an overview of the whole story but on a more detailed level. It’s the chapter by chapter or scene by scene breakdown of what’s happening. You include even more details here, you name other characters, and maybe even places. Once you’re done, you often know the whole cast of your book, major characters and minor characters included. You’ll know the locations where the story takes place. You’ll know exactly what happens in your story.
You can do extra research and preparation by making character sheets and location descriptions before moving on to the outline. That’s all up to you.
Outlining is the last one. This is where I made a major change. For a NaNo Novel, I wanted to do something quick. That meant I needed to know exactly what was happening when. And I learned that my understanding of story structure and character arcs is still lacking unless I pay attention to it. So here’s me growing as a writer. I made detailed notes per scene why that scene was important, what the major conflict of the scene is, and what the emotions of the main character are. This book only has one point of view, which makes it easier.
I’ve written all of these things down on an index card and I work my way through them. Since I know what to pay attention to while writing, I hope that my editorial notes will be much less than in my previous books. Who knows.
Obviously, this is a plotter’s technique, but I’m very aware that characters (and in my case, the world is a character too) have a mind of their own and they like to stray from the path you had laid out for them. This happens, it’s natural. Your outline is never set in stone, so don’t be afraid to stray from it. Once I’m done with this draft, I’m going to re-outline it, possibly on the backside of the index cards, to see what’s become. And then still, if my editor says something doesn’t work and I need to change it, I might change it again.
But doing all of this work in advance has made it so much easier to start writing. I know exactly what I’ve to do, and I’m excited to write every scene because every bit is important. I hope that by making these changes I can speed up my drafting process. In a few weeks, I’ll talk more about my revision process. Stay tuned!