With 5 days left before the start of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d outline my plan of attack this year. I realize that many people go into this with the goal of just finishing. I finished it last year, but did not emerge from it with a useful novel. (That is not to say it was not a useful experience; on the contrary, NaNoWriMo taught me that I can consistently put out 2,000 words/day if I put my mind to it.) This year, my intentions are somewhat different. I want to come away from NaNo with a novel that I can ultimately clean up and market to agents and publishers. While I have sold short science fiction, and completely dozens of short stories, I have never completed a novel, so in a way this is a double challenge for me.
I am working harder on the outline this year. I have made fairly extensive use of Mike Resnick‘s book, I Have This Nifty Idea… which contains outlines from real science fiction novels. There are parts of it that I have struggled with and am still struggling with, but I’ll still have some time to work out the details. (Not much time, however.) Perhaps my biggest challenge is that I simply don’t know how to write a novel and I’m going mostly on instinct here and what I’ve learned from my peers, and from reading many, many novels over the years. I know little about breaking things into “acts” and only a little on the overall narrative arc of something this long. In that sense, I am winging things, but I suppose so is everyone their first time.
I won’t talk about the subject of the novel, other than to say that it is science fiction, that it’s working title is Far Away Places, and that my outline describes what might ultimately be a series of three books, that lead up to an ultimate event.
All this being said, here is my game plan:
Prior to NaNoWriMo
- Complete the novel outline and REVISE
- Get some feedback on the outline from first-readers
- Clear the decks on various reading projects, since my reading will be cut down drastically during November
Beginning November 1
- Aim for 2,000 words/day between 5-7 am on weekdays and 7-9 am on weekends; this puts me on target for 60,000 words in November
- Have an idea about what I am going to write every day; my outline breaks things down into 45 chapters of roughly 2,000 words each. That means about a chapter/day, assuming I stick to the outline.
- Identify 5-6 chapters that I am very excited to write, maybe 1/week, scattered throughout the outline. Reserve these for days in which I am not feeling motivated and then write those chapters on those days.
- Use the NaNoWriMo preview version of Scrivener 2.0. I’ve been a Scrivener user for years and this will give me the chance to play with the new features and evaluate the product in a real-life situation.
- Rely on my support network, other WriMos, friends, family, colleagues, etc.
- Avoid revising, but jot down a lot of notes where I think things aren’t working.
- Where possible, take advantage of snippets of time in the evenings to work on other writing projects, to get my mind off the novel from time-to-time.
- Try to blog every day on my progress.
- Try to encourage others that I know participating in the event.
Beginning December 1
At the close of NaNoWriMo, I should have around 60,000 words of what I’m estimating to be a 90,000 word novel. So successfully completing NaNo for me this year is not the end of the journey.
- Continue the same schedule, 2,000 words/day, through December 15, which should get me to the end of the novel.
- On December 16, a Thursday as it turns out, celebrate in some fashion with the family. I have written a complete novel!
- Back everything up (this is done automatically anyway)
- Set the novel aside until January 1
- Take the rest of the month off for a well-deserved rest.
Beginning January 1
- Pull out the novel and read it the whole thing, cover-to-cover to get a feeling for its flow
- Identify problem areas and begin revising
- Begin querying first readers to see if they are willing to take a peek
- Put first 3 chapters and outline up for review at the writer’s group
- Revise, revise, revise
- Begin identifying potential agencies through SFWA peer and colleague recommendations
- Start writing and sending out queries per recommendations
- See what happens
I can’t plan much beyond that, but at least, if all goes well, the process that starts on November 1 will, 4-5 months later, have me at a point where I am querying agencies on my novel and even if it doesn’t sell, I might get some valuable feedback there as well.