November is approaching, and with it, NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write 50,000 original words during the month of November. If you’ve read my previous posts on NaNo, you know that I’ve tried and failed twice (in 2012 and 2014). In 2014, I got 95 pages into the story before it fizzled out, because I had no idea where my plot was heading. The main problem was that I hadn’t outlined any of my novel ahead of time. I had the premise, the characters, and the setting, but nothing else. No clue about the main character’s goals or motivation, and I truly didn’t know how I wanted the story to end.
This year, I’m tempted to try NaNo again because I need a new project. I’m sending a revised MS back out into the query trenches, and I’d rather be immersed in a new story than spend hours obsessing over social media and refreshing my email. Last weekend, my local chapter of RWA (Wisconsin RWA) held a Fall Writing Workshop featuring Candace Havens, who is known for her “Fast Draft” method. At the workshop, she gave the class rules for drafting a novel in two weeks (!!). I couldn’t attend the workshop, but some WisRWA members are going to attempt the Fast Draft method for NaNoWriMo. I can definitely see the appeal—work, non-stop, for two weeks, with the end result being a first draft of about 280 pages!! That’s some super-fast writing (20 pages a day!). I’m sure the end result will be an ugly first draft, full of plot holes, clichés, and stilted dialogue. But it’s a starting point. And as the saying goes, “you can’t revise a blank page.”
However, from what I understand, if you’re going to succeed at the Fast Draft method (or at NaNo in general), the key is pre-planning. I’ve never been good at this, because I tend to be a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants). I’m the kind of writer who doesn’t even attempt a synopsis until I’ve finished the second draft. But what if I could come up with a fully-realized idea for a novel ahead of time? What if I could actually create a series of beats/scenes, using Save the Cat, or The Writer’s Journey, and come up with a detailed outline? Granted, some things might change during the writing process, especially since my characters don’t always “behave” the way I want them to, but I wouldn’t be staring at a blank page, trying to figure out what happens next.