Monday, October 19, 2009
Two weeks until NaNo
It’s an unusual experience for me to have a date that I have to wait for before I can start writing a project. It’s kind of like an inverted deadline, a ‘birthline’ maybe? Normally, I have an idea, think about it, develop it and plan it out but I tend to strike while the iron’s hot and get started during that initial burst of enthusiasm. Waiting until November just to get started is requiring more patience than I’m used to. On the one hand, it has been good for me to focus on ploughing through a lot of editing and wrapping up other projects so that I can focus solely on the novel in November. However, every time I add to my plotline or think of another thing I want to include in the book, I get really enthused and impatient to start writing. Patience and waiting have never been strong points for me but I think they are useful skills to develop as a writer. Certainly, waiting for time to pass before I start a redraft or edit has proven useful in the past. I just wonder how the process of waiting between the initial inspiring stage of developing the premise and actually starting the project will turn out for me. I have a lurking fear that I should be using this time more wisely. That there is some sort of planning and preparation I could do that would make me write the first draft better. I’m just not sure what it is. I don’t like to overly plan out the minutia of the plot. I like to know the key scenes and the final destination but I like wriggle room as well. Once the characters start coming to life they have their own ideas about what they want to do and sometimes stumble onto parts of the story I didn’t even realise were there. In many ways, I approach planning a novel like preparing for an overseas holiday. You want to know where you’re going and have your accommodation booked. You want to pack your bags with what you think you might need. You want to know the date and time of your return flight but you don’t want to plan out every minute of every day. Sure, there will be some important sights that you don’t want to miss but there will be a lot of amazing things that you’ll sort of discover by accident and sometimes it’s those unexpected experiences that end up being the most memorable parts of the holiday. However, like an overseas holiday I think research and preparation can enhance the overall experience. I like reading Lonely Planet guides and flicking through phrase books. I like talking to other people who have been to the place before and have places and things to recommend. None of these things is a substitute for actually going and experiencing it yourself but it gets you excited about what the holiday will be like and, more importantly, it can help you understand how to find some opportunities that you might otherwise miss. I guess that’s what I’m after with my upcoming novel. I’ve done the basic planning and now I’m after some sneak preview of what it will be like or a guidebook that will tell me what to pack before I venture out into the writing ahead. Unfortunately, since the novel hasn’t been written yet, they are no phrase books, travel guides or friends who have already read it to give me advice. There’s no way for me to know what the book will be like until I’ve written it. Writers are explorers, not tourists.