I’m not ready. Or rather, my novel isn’t. (Which I have a sinking feeling might be two ways of saying the same thing.)
For those of you mouthing Na-No-Wri-what?, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and in online writing circles (i.e. the big fat geek fests that are my cup o’ tea), it’s pretty much a Big Deal. Every November, all the novels sitting on hard-drives and Scrivener docs the world over are kick-started by this event, with the idea that if the participants write every single day, they will all have a novel (or 50K of one, whichever comes first) finished by November 30th.
In my experience? Roughly 70% of participants have 50K of gibberish finished by November 30th, 29% have given up by November 10th, and 1% is bragging that they finished, wrote 70K not 50K, and are now polishing their final draft. Oh, and they’re lying.
Or maybe that’s just the sour grapes talking. Because if I only had a new novel idea that would stick to the ribs, I’d be doing it. NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriYr…actually. On my own. Every day of every month. Just as I did the year I completed The Novel That Won’t Die.
But I don’t. I have a concept for Novel #2. I like it. It has potential. It even has roughly 7K of prose to back it up. Clipped to that, I have a few paragraphs of outlined plot. A few paragraphs. I have it divided into sections and I have main characters and I have a very, very generalized story arc. But whenever I try to sit down and write it, I can’t get a proper stab at it. It slides around the plate, always just out of reach. And it’s been teasing me thus for at least a few months.
I’ve wrestled with this before, the old ‘chicken or the egg’ question. Which comes first, the outline (plot) or the content (prose)? My preference? The outline. I like to look at a neatly bullet-pointed summary and tick off the boxes as I write. I don’t like casting myself into the abyss, writing any way the wind blows. Could I do that once a day to 50K? Hell, yeah. I’m a great pen-to-paper B.S.er. (How do you think I got through four years of English Lit?) But what I’ll be left with is a protagonist staggering aimlessly through a barren desert (metaphorically-speaking, of course), and who wants that? More to the point, who wants to read that?
But to play devil’s advocate, if I don’t just start to write already, I’ll never know where my protagonist is headed. It’s a conundrum, to be sure. So I’m wondering…if you’re a writer, what do you write first, the chicken or the egg? What works for you? And don’t tell me how far you already are in NaNoWriMo. I don’t want to hear it.