November has finally come and gone, and with it, another NaNoWriMo season. Writing 50k words in one month seems daunting enough, but adding in my Master’s thesis project and life in general, it was pretty rough. In the end, though, I accomplished everything that I set out to accomplish in November, including winning NaNoWriMo and submitting my thesis for review.
After it was all said and done, there are two lessons that I learned along the way that I would like to share with all of you.
Have a better plan
October was awesome for me, I started writing my thesis/NaNo project because I knew 50k wasn’t going to be “The End” for this story. So, I looked at one of my favorite resources, the Better Novel Project website, to get some ideas on how I wanted to structure my story. I outlined, I planned, I brainstormed. And then half way through the month, I drew a blank.
What should I name this character? What does he/she look like? How do I make her as fierce as she needs to be? Why is she that fierce to begin with? And above all else, how do they get to x, y, and z of my outline?
It was rough. Even though I knew from the Better Novel outline that I wanted to hit certain milestones in my story, I didn’t know how my characters were going to get there. It seemed like every time I wrote something, they were winding down paths of nothingness, and all of it was just meh.
So, I spent a little bit of reflection time, while working on pushing out words that were mainly about world building, and created a Character Planning Guide (check it out on my Freebies page).
Finally, I had something that made sense to me to create characters with. I was always horrible at the fake interviews of my characters, and creating one out of nothing left me with a character who fell pretty flat on the page. However, once I dove into the questions and examples that I found and used to create the Character Planning Guide, things went much smoother. I could totally see where I had lumped characters together, or places that I could afford to stretch some of their backgrounds or personalities so that they made sense in my story.
I’ll go further into that whole situation in a later post, but the one thing that I learned was that I, for one, need a better plan before November 1st hits. An outline helped, but finding more specific details and information about my characters ahead of time would have saved me a lot of stress and headaches in the trenches of NaNoWriMo.
Sometimes, the fastest way forward is to go back
Half way through NaNoWriMo, I had to submit a draft of my project for midterm feedback as part of my Master’s program. I was pretty excited to submit the 52 pages that I’d written so far, and although I knew I needed to cut some fluff, I was pretty proud of it.
And then I got the feedback. Don’t get me wrong, my reader loved the story and was excited for it, but she offered two HUGE revision suggestions. First, go from multiple perspectives, where I had the main character, the antagonist, and the sidekick each with his/her own POV chapters, down to a single perspective, that of my main character’s. Secondly, she recommended that this story would be much more impactful if I went from third person POV to first person.
I freaked out. I never wrote in first person! And I had always imagined this story from different perspectives and had scenes that I was really excited about in the alternate POV chapters. So, I reflected. I stopped writing for two days (see Nov. 15 in the bar graph above), I did research and compared the feedback to other books in the YA genre. And you know what, she was right. So I decided to give it a try. I’ll be honest, within my first 15 minutes, I’d switched back to third person again. But after a quick fix, I tried it again.
That’s when I realized that the story that I wanted to tell in this first person POV was actually a different character all together, and I loved her POV. So, I went back to the beginning, and started from Chapter 1. I changed my main character and her best friend, I removed the alternate perspective scenes, and I reframed the story. And I am ten times more excited and happy with this story than I was before. So, I learned that even though I wanted to push forward, going back and even scrapping some of my words/pride meant that I ended up with a better story in the end, and that’s what it is all about.