Disclaimer: This is more of a note-to-self post, than one targeted at anyone else in particular. Deal accordingly.
It’s November 5th here. Day 5 of NaNoWriMo. So far, it’s going alright.
I’m ahead on my word count, to the point I could write a total of 102 words for the day, and still be on track. That won’t be how it goes, as I’m trying my best to at least commit to the standard daily word count, and whichever days hold a little extra? Well, they’re just an extra bonus. I’m not a huge overachiever when it comes to the word count, but I want to force the habit just a little bit more this time around. That means not missing a day.
One of the major issues I’m having, is treating it as a first draft.
Yes, in opposition to a lot of what I’ve said, I’m not treating it completely like a first draft, and it’s a habit that means I stop writing to think far more than I ought to. It’s not the individual sentences that are the culprits, but the overall flow of the story that continues to occupy my thoughts. I planned out a loose outline of the chapters in the novel, details on some characters, the tone of the world and other elements. Specifics were not really there.
I have a section that states a character is investigating a certain technology, and his motivations for such. I hadn’t mentioned anything about his assistant, though he naturally had to have one. I didn’t know what the relationship between those two characters would be like, and the more I write, the more I realise there’s so many unknowns to the novel. It’s in that respect that I’m struggling with the concept of a ‘first draft’.
The setting itself is complicated. It’s a future version of Earth with all of the calamities and troubles that one could imagine if the state of the world degraded further over centuries. There’s details about that throughout the first three chapters (or what the sensible division of chapters are, based on what’s been written thus far), though each chapter is more concerned with the characters within them and what they’re doing, rather than the world. It’s not a milieu story.
I’m in the midst of setting the pieces on the board, putting each character on the path that will ultimately cause all of their lives to collide in some way or another, but the unknowns and set-ups feel enormous. I can already see myself having to rewrite some of the chapters, add more details before they take place, and generally explore each of the three character threads while they start to intersect. Chapter four is underway now, throwing the MC into a degree of trouble based on her earlier actions, but the plan is still quite open as to how that manifests.
I don’t know her exact troubles yet. I know one of the other characters is investigating something peculiar in their own thread, and that the clues they uncover will lead them to the third.
To really treat this as a first draft, I need to be okay with not knowing what happens yet. I wrote the words in the self-planning guide, but obviously haven’t taken them to heart.
You don’t know your novel.
That’s what it said. Exactly what I wrote. I don’t know my novel either. I have ideas about how the lives of the characters interact, the places that they’ll end up, and how their destinies lie when the story ends, but the big unknown before that? Treating your novel as a first draft isn’t just about going with a word you’re not happy with, or ignoring the spelling mistakes. It’s not just about keeping the internal editor at bay with icecream and chocolate. It’s letting the story go everywhere it can, even places where it doesn’t fit at the moment. You’re still discovering the world and the characters, whether you’ve breathed them for a week or a decade.
Sometimes you have to let the writing happen even when it doesn’t feel like it’s adding or progressing, just to see what it has to offer. You can’t tell if it’s a dead-end or a scenic route, until you’ve taken it.