The distant lighthouses of ideas

We’re sliding through to the last third of September already, and that means several things.

First, it means I have an essay due pretty soon and a lot of history readings I haven’t done yet. Eep.

Second, it means NaNoWriMo is just a month and a bit away.

The NaNo forums get a wipe every year at the beginning of October, so things can begin anew. As not much of a plotter, October tends to be when I sit down and really decide what it is I want to write. Last year I actually did plot with a beat sheet, and I started with an idea I’d had bouncing around in my head for a while. This year I have no idea what I’m going to do. I have a MS that’s shorter than I want it to be, but still in progress, and I’d rather play with something new. There’s another story, one I’ve been thinking about vaguely for a while, that I could do something with. It’s really just a woman who wakes up in hospital with amnesia, 28 Days Later style, and then things happen. What are those things? I’m not entirely sure, but I was thinking of some sort of action thriller with a devil-may-care sidekick and a race across Australia.

While that’s something I do want to write eventually, I’m not sure about it at this point. I’m kind of more in the mood to write some serious angst, and that plot (such as it is) doesn’t really lend itself to angst.

The neat thing about the NaNo forums in October is there’s so much inspiration there. I like the Dares thread in particular for pulling out plot points, character quirks and so on – I actually wrote an entire novel that was inspired by a dare. Dares are usually pretty silly, but they can spark a thought that really gets you somewhere.

I’m sure I’ll find something. It’s just strange being in a place where I know, in a few months, I’ll have a new draft sitting around, and right now I don’t have the faintest idea the kind of shape it will take. I don’t know who the characters are, what the plot will be like, or the setting. I’m also going to be trying a different method of writing it than I have done in previous years.

Usually, in November drafts, I like to start around the beginning and write to around the end. Sometimes the actual end won’t be for a few thousand words after 50k, or I won’t be sure precisely where I want to start, but overall I write it in a basically linear fashion. I’m like Daenerys at the end of A Game of Thrones; I cannot look back. I must keep moving forward. As I’ve written before, present wordcount output is suggesting to me that this might not be the best way to go about it. If I can add another thousand words by revisiting an earlier scene, that might be a better option than pressing onwards if I’m not sure where I’m going. A great scene I’m not sure really fits the novel, but might appear in 40,000 words time? Last year I would have scribbled a note and perhaps come back to it in Week 4. This year I would just write the scene, leave it there, and if it doesn’t end up fitting the finished novel, oh well. Into the orphans file it will go.

I am a big believer in the Orphans File. Every scrivener file I have, there is a page under “research” in which I dump all the words I’ve written (gotta preserve that wordcount!) that I’ve decided I no longer plan to use. That paragraph from that scene might actually end up fitting somewhere else. That dialogue was pretty good, you never know when you might find a place for it. In a different novel, maybe. In a short story. That line might turn into a poem. Those things will all be useful one day. Keep everything.

Yes, you should kill your darlings. And then preserve them in jars on the shelf.

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