Na-Nonsense: Ready for 2013?

October is usually when I decide if I can and/or will participate in National Novel Writing Month. I like to have a vague idea of a story already in my head by that time, so I can use October to do the basics of my research. But, I have to know my starting point.

My first NaNo, all the way back in 2005, came from an idea to write about my ancestral homeland, Japan, through the eyes of the family cat. 2007 was the year I picked up a bass for the first time, and became obsessed with classic rock band The Who, and so based the story around music. My 2011 idea sprung from a conversation between a couple on a beach. In 2012, I totally pantsed my way through the story of my space-age runaways and the hounds on their tail. For 2013 – if I do participate – I’ve got a fairly rough outline already in mind, quoted below.

I guess you shouldn’t read the idea flow if you think you’ll read the finished product- BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, oh, I had a good laugh at that one! Of course, no one is gonna wanna read this tripe!

Laughing Cat from I Can Haz Cheezburger

Oh, come on. You laughed. I know you did.

But, here you go, a glimpse into my process:

Flashback: Paige

Present day: New possibilities

Rob and coffee (or a beer) (You’re no good at this)

Goodbye at the stoop/Take things slow/The kiss

Dinners and dates (Do you like him? Or, do you like like him?)

Serena (Blow-up at the restaurant)

The past – Rob and Serena

Love for the first time

The morning after (Sleepover rules)

Days pass

Serena’s fight (unfit for duty)

Paige always comes first (“She has to.”)

Goodbyes (You belong with her)

He’s not the same, without you (Mia, maybe)


Resolutions, reversals, and revolutions

Generally speaking, this is what a rough first outline looks like, for me. (Well, I usually start with character names and some sketches for appearance, but I didn’t think a bunch of random names and profile scribbles would have been interesting for a blog post.) The story may change from these initial flecks of grey matter – it often does! – but even in that case, I find I write much more easily and fluidly if I have some prepped ideas ready.

In 2012, I came to the game much later than I usually do – November 1, in fact – and I spent the first two days just writing a story flow outline. I got my highs and lows so early in the process, because I was writing great big chunks of dialogue to feed my plot brain. The remainder of the month was mostly just filling in the blanks of those dialogue blocks. Of course, it strayed in parts, but the basic story remained the same. I had a great time writing it, but I wonder if I did myself or the story an injustice because of the way it came together. An editor’s notes on the first chapter of that story showed me I hadn’t committed myself to the fullness of what that story could be. In some ways, I didn’t care, because it was a NaNo story and I was simply glad I’d gotten through it before November 30. But a more serious-minded, critical part of me thought I should have taken more of that time not merely filling in the spaces between the dialogue, but actually putting effort into building that world.

(Not this sort of pantsing)

I’m still building that world. I don’t know if it will ever get to the point where I’d want to send it off again, but it gave me a lot to think about. That stories, the ones we love, deserve our full efforts.

I can’t say I’ll do any better with my 2013 story than I did with my 2012 one (or any of the others, for that matter), but part of the reason I like NaNo is that it makes me push myself to write, and write hard.

What do you think, based on the above? You think I should give single dad Rob and daughter Paige a chance?
How do you approach NaNo (if you do)?


14 thoughts on “Na-Nonsense: Ready for 2013?

  1. Yay! Do it! Do it! Do it! Last year was my first time of doing NaNo, and I went for a fairly structured outline to get me through it, slim and slight, but structured! (Structured for me anyway, a big time pantser!). I broke it down into the days, and how many words I wanted to achieve each day, and I wrote out just one line for each of those days, just something like:
    – John and Maggie are in the shop, they get call from the police and then rush to hospital.
    Just the very basic plot points to get me through the story, and it pretty much worked, in terms of getting me through anyway! And I did actually try and do something with it afterwards, I revamped it and submitted it to a pocket novel thing. They didn’t accept it, but I got feedback, and I’d still like to do something with it because I still think it’s a good story, it just needs to be written better! But rewriting it, and doing NaNo again this year are definitely out of the question for me with my MA!
    Good luck with it if you go ahead Mayumi!


    • I don’t expect your MA would allow for something so frivolous as this, but thanks, Vanessa! πŸ™‚

      I took a cue from you last year, and wrote a fairly structured outline, too. It really did help with word count and plot progression, but those first two days of writing that outline were my biggest rush days, so the rest felt almost like filler. Still, I liked seeing how the story changed over the course of the month, even from a pretty deep outline. That’s the wonder of stories, I suppose.

      I’m sure you’ll have some great stories ready to tell when you get your MA certificate, too. I can’t wait to hear them! πŸ˜€


  2. If you like the idea, then go for it! To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on with the jumble of ideas thrown down like that, but it did remind me of an exercise in one of my writing practice books, where you take a bunch of random words and make a story using them. It makes me think that anything’s possible with your idea.

    I’ve never tried writing a NaNo before, but usually when summer hits, I write a lot. I’ll sit there for hours hand-writing pages at a time, but because I stick with the one idea for so long, I eventually grow tired of it after many, many, many pages. So, good luck with yours!


    • I very much doubt that idea draft would make sense to anyone but me! πŸ˜€ The lists are more feelings than anything else. When I first wrote 1MC!, for example, the idea progression for the first two arcs went something like:
      Saki grave
      Kiss under lamplight
      Kuma interruptus
      Rise grabs the bomb
      Slip-ups/Falling/Secret meetings (window treatment?)
      Happy birthday, Yousu-chan

      There are always bits I *know* will happen, but other details fall into place along the way. I like keeping the ideas open, though, so I can veer into a new direction if I want to do that.

      For me, NaNo is more about finding and creating my own disciplinary measures for writing, than it is about crafting any great story. Since you say you write a lot in the beginning but then grow tired of a story, you might look to use an exercise like this to pace yourself, or sort out ways to keep your interest going for a longer haul. It’s not for everybody, though, especially not when papers and essays are due! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Having never done NaNo, I’m probably not qualified to give advice! I guess it comes down to whether you feel up to working on this new idea during November or if you want to continue working on existing projects.

    I toyed with the idea of working on Meghan’s “third story” as a NaNo project, but I already know that I won’t. For starters, Madeleine has been working with me on the rebuild of her novel, and I think we’ll keep at that. And, more importantly, Meghan’s story is a real mystery, and I think those need more plotting and thought than NaNo is meant to be.

    So, I think it comes down to thisβ€”what do you want to do in November? πŸ™‚


    • I was being lazy and waiting for someone to tell me what to do, JM. πŸ˜‰

      Seriously, it sounds like your NaNo-possibility is a strong enough start for another project, without the added chaos of the daily word count. And, you’re right: a mystery deserves a lot of planning and forethought. I look forward to reading more Meghan stories, whenever that may be for your schedule. πŸ™‚


  4. Holy crud, it’s almost that time already, isn’t it…well shazbot!
    I say go all out with the idea you’ve got. I’ve only ever seen you write from a child’s perspective a handful of times, so I am curious to see how it would expand in a full story. And all the trials Rob will face make realistic (or not, depending on the setting) drama with many opportunities for raising and crushing hopes.
    And who are Serena and Mia? Where do they fall into the mix? Will they affect each other?

    I really do hope I am able to read what you come up with πŸ™‚


    • Aw, thanks,Shade!
      I don’t know if I’ll do the story completely from Paige’s POV, or switch between her and Rob. I think it would be interesting (for me, anyway) to see the progression of events from both of their perspectives.
      Of course, writing a NaNo story means juggling everything else. But, I’ve ignored biting bugs before, and they have a tendency to pester away anyway, so I may as well answer them. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by! I know you’re busy, so I appreciate it. πŸ™‚


  5. Well, I always say that if you try it, you can quit if you don’t like it. But if you don’t try it then you’ll never know.

    I think NaNo is helpful in some ways, not so helpful in other ways. People who go into it thinking they’ll have a book by the end of the month are the ones who get hit hard by the realization that Writing. Is. Tough. The idea that we can win NaNo just for writing 50,000 words is a little bit misleading for newbies. Really, it’s 50,000 words of crap we have to rewrite. If you’re not prepared, you’re doomed.

    You know what you’re in for, so I don’t worry about your ego. Too much. πŸ˜‰ I think if you have a rough outline, some ideas floating around, then you should definitely try to construct a story with it — whether it’s for NaNo or not.


    • There are two chairs in my office, Kate: one for me, and one for my ego. πŸ˜‰

      Yes, my first NaNo was a real eye-opener in terms of the realities of writing. It’s often a fun exercise, though, and I do enjoy pushing myself into the worlds of new characters. Sometimes, though, I do get too caught up in the idea of words over story, always a dangerous position. But, sometimes, those ventures into the whimsy of a NaNo or similar help me with my more “serious” projects, too. Not sure if this year will pan out, but thanks for the insight. πŸ˜€


  6. Pingback: My NaNo Retrospective | Even More BonusParts!

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