Saturday, October 29, 2011


That's right! In just Two days, Nine hours, and Fifty-Three minutes, NaNoWriMo 2011 will begin. As I've already said, I will be 90 minutes behind in my beginning this year due to work - but that's okay.

I've been lagging behind even myself in my "preparation" this year. Normally, I at least have a title or a scene or a setting. Well, other than my first year where I ... No - that's right! In 2008 I did have a title when I started. That was it -a title. No other information at all until my fingers hit the keyboard at 12:01 AM on November 1st.

This year I had absolutely nothing. No characters. No title. No plot. See, I'm following Chris Baty's book, "No Plot? No Problem!" And this strategy has worked for me.

Each year I learn something new. I learn how having absolutely no direction or idea or plot in mind before you start can make for very messy editing. Yes, it does. Oh, well, lesson learned. And I am still editing that novel, partly because of no structure at all - then not even starting an as-I-go outline until probably week two, when I realized that I really liked what I was writing and would see that one through to publication. Lesson learned? Sort of.

But I'm a fly-by-the-pen type of writer. So, I needed to find a different way. I don't like outlines. My muse and my characters don't play well with outlines (or is it me, the writer?).

So, year two, I started with a setting and a plot of sorts in mind. And a very vague sense of characters: members of a relay walking team and their driver. That year I kept trying to bring the characters back to my idea of a plot when they'd wander off. I tried following them on sideways journeys and then forcing them back into where I, the writer, wanted them to go. I passed the 50k mark - but I never finished it. I think there are some great character sketches in there. Some good scenes, with nice imagery. And it didn't go anywhere. So lesson learned? Yes - I'm the type of writer who can't force my characters into a mold and I have to go to the mental creative space where I let the story come out as it wants to. I think there can be some conversations with my muse and the characters, but, again - I have to be open to the flow of the story.

A second lesson learned in my second year was to not base my story too heavily on recent real events. That was another part of the problem. The story was fiction, but was based on an experience a few months earlier. I had problems letting go of my "reality" and the characters and story I was trying to write.

Then year three: wow. I had a beautiful setting and the story started out really strong and I was whizzing through it and there were surprising yet delightful events ("delightful" is relative - that's delight from a writer's perspective of the characters and plot depth that surfaced; the subject in a few places was a little murderly "ick"). I kept a running outline every step of the way. I kept my Google Docs version of the novel in smaller pieces (lesson #3 from year two: Google Docs doesn't play well with large documents, especially on a five year old laptop; Google still hasn't resolved this large file issue and it's getting worse in my opinion - that's a story for another day because this year I will again use Google Docs but as a backup and will be trying somewhere else for the main document because I'm tired of the computer freeze-ups on Google). I again passed the 50k benchmark last year and liked my story - a lot. That one still needs an ending and will get it - later - after the 2008 novel is done, because it's still my favorite.

Now here I am at the brink of year four. Nothing at all as of midnight last night. Then, after I completed grading the final student journal for last week, I decided to look in my special writing email folder. Several months ago I had this brilliant idea to set up a folder in my personal email account just for writing inspirations. I keep losing slips of papers with ideas or observations written on them. I can't remember which notebook or journal I jotted something down. I forget I even wrote something down sometimes. But with my personal email, there is a great filtering system for incoming messages. So I set up a special folder just for inspirations so I can send myself an email to that account with my secret word in the subject line and it goes straight to my inspiration folder.

I was planning to go to the Portland NaNoWriMo kick-off party this morning. I'd heard one thing people do is go around and introduce themselves and say what they're planning to write. Until yesterday I was thinking I would just say "I've got nothing" and leave it at that. But I remembered my secret folder. I opened it up and looked at the 25 or so emails: titles, characters, phrases, plot ideas, and so on. I copied some of them into a Notepad document and printed it; looked them over. And a plan emerged!

I'm happy to announce that I now have a Title, and four Main Characters, and at least a Plot Summary. And, no, I didn't make it to the kick-off party. I woke up with the alarm set for that purpose, but my body needed more sleep. I decided to see if I did really go back to sleep and would just wake up naturally. If it was in time for the party - yay! - and if not, then I needed the sleep.

I woke up at noon : 30 minutes after the party ended. So be it, my body needed sleep, obviously.

As anyone who as been with me through previous NaNos knows: I will keep you updated throughout November.

For now, here is a link to my author's page : dot. where you can see my progress and read a synopsis and a sample. The samples will change as I get some good ones; the sample portion is, obviously, blank since I have started writing it yet. Not until November 1st at 1:30 AM for me.

My 2011 NaNoWriMo novel title and synopsis:
Following Instinct: of Shadows and Edges
Samantha Albright "says funny shit." Annette Green is a loner spending time at the shooting range. Hank Spinoza spends his days meticulously grooming his lawn - by hand. These disconnected neighbors lives are about to change when Juliette Reynolds moves in to the vacant house at the end of the street. Juliette's abilities to sense truths people would rather hide threatens the daily drone of this quiet hodgepodge neighborhood.

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