I really struggled with my plot for NaNoWriMo. I laid down beats for one-and one-half books before I scrapped it all. It wasn’t that the ideas were bad exactly. The ideas were not ambitious enough. The stories were strong up front but I couldn’t see my enthusiasm carrying me through to the end.
When I say “scrapping it all,” it sounds rather careless and casual. It wasn’t. With only a few days before the start, I didn’t have a story I wanted to tell. That was surprising (to me, least) because the bigger the story, the more I want an outline. Compounding my worry (and shame) was that I had already advised others that they needed an outline to increase their chance of NaNoWriMo success. I have written a couple of half-books before. Poor abandoned halflings they were. They’d been born strong and healthy but they went bad, failed to thrive and died on the table in my surgery. Agony crushes your heart. Reaching for something that isn’t there caves your skull. Non-writers would call it self-doubt (but nevermind non-writers. I don’t understand them any better than I grok non-readers. Bunch’a freaks.)
Halloween night as little goblins and comically-short Vader imposters came to the door for cavity and diabetes inducers, I looked over my outlines. How would I make them work? Could I rig the stories so I’d have the energy to ride all the way home? No, I decided. Problems can be fixed, but a lack of enthusiasm for one whole plot and the utter lack of the second half of a book? I might wake up with a solution to those conundrums some day, but I was sure I couldn’t force a solution over a 30-day writing stretch. Not without breaking something.
Then I decided, screw it. <insert sigh of self-loathing here> I’ll wing it.
Or…waitadamnminute…what did I say about waking up with a solution? Of course!
I let the hypnogogic state come to my rescue. The hypnogogic state is that special twilight of consciousness between sleep and waking that is rich territory for buried treasures and epiphanies. I’ve used it to resolve many issues. As I fall asleep I ask the question. As I wake, the answer comes. I’ve plotted solutions, found resolution and clarity and come up with intuitive and counter-intuitive ideas for many questions in my life and work. It didn’t fail me this time, either.
Yesterday morning I woke thinking about a short story I’d written recently. It’s an alternative future as many of my stories are. It occurred to me that I had left the end of that sad story on a somewhat comic and hopeful note for change.
The epiphany was, “That hopeful ending worked as a short story. If you trash the hero’s hopes for that resolution, it’s the end of an early chapter.” A-HA!
Few plot developments fail if the author is determined to torture the protagonist. I had created a rich world in that short story. Now that early preparation could be useful for the NaNoWriMo project. I’d use that world and link it up with the half-story I had plotted. The two stories are unrelated, but they could share that world of secret police, relentless surveillance and a theocracy run amok.
I woke up smiling with a good beginning and a hero who was now a Cheech and Chong/Fugitive meets Mr. Spock in search of a Terminator (played by Summer Glau, not the governator.) The first story was about the discovery and governmental repression of a miracle drug. The second was about robots reaching such complexity they are indistinguishable from humans. Now those stories will be in the same timeline.
I’ve found my enthusiasm for the story. It will carry me to the end now.
- First Day of NaNoWriMo (blogging2learn.wordpress.com)
- Tis The Season For NaNoWriMo (chicagoist.com)
- NaNoWriMo and other Stuff (distractible.org)
- Bio Break salutes NaNoWriMo writers! (biobreak.wordpress.com)
- “Writing the mad dash – National Novel Writing Month” and related posts (scholarsandrogues.com)