November is literally tomorrow! That means that NaNoWriMo kicks off at midnight tonight. If you haven’t already signed up or announced your project, this is your last chance. If you need or want an extra writing buddy, you can find me on the NaNo site as WrittenVixen.
This year I’m both nervous and excited for my project. I’ll be in the rebel category again, but I’ll also be working in a genre that hasn’t been the easiest for me to write previously. And, for some insane reason, I’ll be working on a series.
This particular story idea is one that’s been with me for over a decade. There have been so many false starts, rewrites and drastic changes that I don’t think I could feasibly count the number of hours and words I’ve already poured into it. It would be easy to give myself an out and say that it’s not a story I can complete—after all, the folder for it looks a little like a nesting doll full of scrapped story ideas and bits and pieces I’ve cut out. Only instead of finding a tinier story inside each layer, there turns out to be a dozen more versions of the same thing, each with yet another dozen inside.
I think that’s part of the reason why I’m taking up this challenge again: because it is a challenge. It means that I have to learn something new, not just about the story, but about myself. And as you might know, a few months back, I got hit with a dose of realization that’s probably long overdue: I am an unhealthy perfectionist.
Which means that despite all of the work I’ve already put into this story idea, all of the good that’s probably buried in a who-knows-how-old draft somewhere in the labyrinth of junk folders, the things I saw as mistakes were enough to stop me. And it means that more than likely there’s very little wrong with the story that can’t be fixed.
Getting over my perfectionism means doing the uncomfortable things. It means accepting that as much as I want ‘perfect’ there’s no way of reaching something that doesn’t exist.
Ultimately, that’s why I chose to dig this one out again, and why I’m trying to make a conscious effort to show the parts that aren’t perfect.
Because I know how easy it is to feel like what I make and create isn’t good enough. It’s easy to compare yourself to the picture-perfect books on the shelves. It’s entirely too easy to forget that every writer has to get through a rough draft before they can start seriously considering publication.
Which is where this project (and yes, dozens of my other projects) are constantly at: rough draft. There’s two reasons I want to try and document this one at least. The first is entirely selfish. By keeping at least a loose documentation of what it takes for me to actually say something is good enough, I give myself a roadmap for the next project. It makes it easier to stop telling myself that my writing has to be perfect.
Secondly, tracking the progress a story makes to go from drafted to published means peeling back the layers of polish and letting other aspiring writers see that they’re not the only ones out there feeling like their writing isn’t good enough. It means potentially inspiring someone to keep going, to put their story out there, never mind ‘perfect’.
At the moment, the working title is Inhumans. As you might have guessed, the series follows those that aren’t human: more specifically three members of the Inhuman Enforcement Agency whose job is to keep vampires, werewolves and other paranormal entities abiding by the law. Or at least try to.
For NaNo Prep, I ended up digging through the material I’d already written and took note of all the bits that weren’t as bad as I’d thought they were. That ended up with a loose series idea. I took it one step farther this year and did something I don’t think I’ve ever done for a story before:
I outlined it.
This is by no means a commentary on outlining versus not outlining. It’s simply a statement of fact. I don’t typically do an outline until I have the rough draft written. I find it easier to identify the structure when I can look at which parts are working and which ones aren’t. Previous attempts to outline a story before writing have ended up with every single one abandoned, or at the very least, lackluster.
What I ended up with however, was an outline for a series. Which is why I’m also planning on using a zero draft method to get these at least sort of written. Because I have the outline, I’m running a series of writing sprints for myself, giving myself between ten and fifteen minutes to just write as much of the scene as possible. Once the timer goes off, then it’s on to the next scene. Since I won’t be able to reference the outline during the actual writing (or else lose time to get words down) I’ll just have to write down whatever sounds good in that little ten-minute scene. That should mean a lot of chances for character arcs to pop up that I couldn’t see in the outlines.
It’s absolutely not my usual process, which is what brings me back to that excitement and nervousness surrounding this year’s NaNo. Go big or go home I guess.
What’s your NaNo project this year? Any big challenges for you and writing? Let me know in the comments below!
Psst! If you’d like a few extra buddies there’s a discord server you can join for whatever you need—inspiration, venting or anything else. Come join us!