NaNo November 11: The real thing

I’ve just reread my previous posts, from all the way back in March. It’s useful to see how my attitude to my previous novel attempt changed over time. It’s also a little frustrating to realise that so much time has passed and I’ve neither continued to write fiction nor even read my 50,000 word draft. I’d thought of the exercise as an ice-breaker to kickstart my writing after years of one-day-I’ll-get-around-to-it pretence, and I suppose that on that score it was an achievement.

I’m in the midst of a real, registered NaNoWriMo challenge at the moment. Three days in, I can sense differences between this approach and February’s attempt.

Firstly, I’m working on an idea, The Pale Shadow, that’s been in the back of my mind since late September. Last time I only gave myself three days’ planning time, but this time I’ve been working on notes, on and off, for a month. I’m not sure I’ve plotted in any greater depth, but I’m hopeful that it’s allowed some of the rough edges of the world I’ve created to be smoothed out.

It’s also a different kind of plot. One of the biggest problems I came across last time was that I planned the first half of the novel and hoped that the rest would fall into place whilst writing. It never did, of course, so this time I’m hoping to counter the issue by writing an episodic story. I’m hoping that this will allow me to plan smaller arcs in much more detail and then reach stopping points where I can be sure that plot strands have been tidied up. I’m also intending to use these regular endpoints as breathing space where I’ll force myself to plan the next episode in detail rather than just plunging in.

Another issue I had last time was introducing too many characters. I don’t think that dialogue is my strong suit, but it was particularly a problem when juggling lots of speakers. Also, last time I wavered between characters, occasionally abandoning them and feeling wistful about relegating characters I enjoyed to the background. So, this time around I’m dedicating myself to two central characters and that’s that. No room for confusion there, I’d hope.

It’s 3rd November today, day three of the challenge, and it’s all going pretty well. I’ve found time to write 2500 words each day so far, although I’ll not let myself take the headstart for granted, as I’ll need the gained time for extra planning later. I’m finding that the pace is less breakneck than on my previous attempt, to the extent that my narrator’s back story has filled all my time so far, more than 10% into my wordcount. I love the thought that I might actually want to cut words rather than pad out, if I were to get as far as a second draft!

My narrator is about to meet the central character. It’s a nervewracking moment for me, as the novel really hinges on the mystery of this character. Perhaps that’s why I wrote this blog post instead of continuing with the novel…

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