Since Norwescon, I’ve been thinking a lot about my novel, which has been sitting, stalled, for over six months. In that time I’ve embarked on a few other projects (like writing a short story every quarter for Writers of the Future), and my novel has taken a back seat. Part of this is because I’ve felt like I need to redo the outline– it’s a large and complicated plot, with five viewpoint characters (four major ones), and I’ve sort of lost my way amongst the intricacies of the different character arcs, and the various setting details and plot reveals that need to be unfolded in just the right way… basically I’ve been intimidated.
However, I’m also 95,000 words into it. Even though in retrospect I think this novel was probably too complicated for my skill level, it’d be a shame to give up on it. Yet at the same time it would be a shame to let other projects and ideas stagnate because I’m possessed by a bull-headed desire to finish this one. What is an author to do?
I reached the decision a while ago that I would give myself until WorldCon (August 17-21) to finish the first draft, and if I didn’t finish it by then, it would be time to set this novel aside and work on the next. But while it’s all well and good to give myself a deadline, that still hasn’t helped me get around what’s blocking me. In addition to a deadline, I needed a new strategy.
At Norwescon, I attended a panel on novel outlining, which was sort of useful– if nothing else, it got me thinking about the novel again, about the motivations of the protagonist and the trials she endures, and perhaps most of all about why I want to write it. Add to that some words of encouragement from Mary Robinette Kowal, and when I got home I opened the outline I had been working on and moved it into Microsoft Excel. From there I was able to identify the point-of-view character for each scene and get a better grip of what order the scenes needed to go into, as well as filter the POV characters in order to get a quick glimpse of the story arc for each one. It’s been extraordinarily helpful as far as wrapping my brain around the plot, and for the time in a while, my goal of finishing by WorldCon is looking doable.
So I’ve decided to give myself a little extra motivation. Next month is May, which lays six months opposite on the calendar from November. November happens to be National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, so given that May mirrors November on the calendar I decided to hold my own personal NaNoWriMo next month. MyNoWriMo, if you will, with my own goal, of reaching 150,000 words (or the end, whichever comes first) by the end of the month. It’s a tall order, but May is looking to be less hectic than April– which was interrupted by a weeklong visit back home to North Carolina, among other things– so I think I might actually be able to pull it off. So in May, the novel is back on the front burner, and other projects (including my Q3 Writers of the Future short story) will just have to wait. Starting Sunday, it’s MyNoWriMo time. I’ll let you know how it goes.
(If you’re interested in reading part of the novel, check out the excerpt I posted for the Valentine’s Day blogfest this year.)