Sunday, October 21, 2007

To Plot or Not

So, I've taken the plunge. I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don't know what this is, it may sound like torture. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the original idea was to stimulate writers who don't think they can write a novel, setting them the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The point is that these are not 50,000 good words, they are just 50,000 words. This is to show people they can produce quantity, and give them a rough draft to work on. You upload your daily writing to the site, which counts them automatically (no-one else sees your writing) and keeps a tally. Anyone who makes it to 50,000 is a "winner".

I signed up two years ago. Me, who has never written anything longer than 6000 words. I wrote a few hundred, and spent all my time in the forums moaning about how I couldn't write anymore. Now, when I seem to be comfortable with stories of less than 700 words, I decided it was time to push myself.

This time, though, I have a support group: six or seven of my fellow Fiction Workhouse members are taking the plunge together and egging each other on. We don't start til nov 1st, but already I feel calmer.

I actually have a main character already, someone from one of my short stories who intrigues me. But that is as far as I get. I have no plot, no novel-length story idea. And that terrified me. I found a few others on the NaNoWriMo forums who are in the same position but most people seem to have plotted their novel out. I was panicking a little.

Until this morning.

Until this morning I was firmly in the camp of the non-plotters. I've never plotted a short story before writing it. Hmm, but then I've never written more than 6000 words. However, today, I was shown a whole new way of working. I am taking an online screenwriting class, with the idea that we all write a full-length screenplay. I have had an idea in my head for a few years - but just an image, a beginning, a concept. Nothing else. One main character. I've tried over the years to just start writing the script and seeing what happened. But that just didn't work.

Today, however, I read the 2nd lesson that the instructor posted online, and in half an hour, following the guidelines, wrote an entire synopsis/Story Map of my film, with beginning, middle and end. The story unfurled as I wrote. Now I have the plot. And it may well be that the plot will change radically as I write the actual script, but I have somewhere to start.

I thought this might help with the novel, as well. I don't know - since I have never written a novel - which parts of this are specific to films, but I have a feeling it's quite similar, just adjust the terminology accordingly. So, tomorrow I will have a go. We'll see if I get anywhere.


Anne Brooke said...

Wonderful! Good luck with it



Debra said...

I did Nanowrimo 2 years running - it's really tough but an incredible experience.

I know lots of people don't bother with plots for a novel, but nanowrimo is scary enough without having even a rough idea of what you're going to write each day. An outline is reássuring, even if you end up throwing the ideas out the window as you write.

Best of luck Tania. I hope youll have time to put some updates on how you're doing during the month.