I don’t have the best record when it comes to Camp NaNoWriMo. In recent years, I’ve been saving new projects for NaNoWriMo in November, and trying to use Camp to edit existing drafts. But I haven’t tended to get very far before running out of steam. This July, however, has been different. I chose to do another edit – the Titanic-based novel I wrote for Camp NaNo 2012 – and while I am technically behind my goal due to a slow start, I’ve been making steady progress and only need to do a couple of extra hours this weekend to get back on track.
I think there’s a few different factors in this. While my NaNo regional group can’t meet up in real life, we have been regularly chatting online, which gives some motivation and accountability, and allows sharing of useful ideas. Plus, I know that when writing the first draft of a novel for NaNoWriMo, the approach that works for me is planning – it’s harder to apply that to editing, but I’ve given it a go. I used OneNote to organise my notes, went back to the themes I originally wanted to explore, and tried to plan out each of the different plotlines, focussing on the most important things that I felt needed amending.
Given that this project is historical fiction, I was thinking a lot about the historical accuracy of what I was writing about and feeling like I’d have to change a great deal to make it work. But then I would be moving further away from the story I wanted to tell in the first place. A friend in the regional group pointed out that the most important thing is strong characters that the reader is interested in – if you have that, some artistic licence is acceptable. Once I’d accepted this, I felt like I could comfortably stick with a lot of the concepts I already had, so long as they were at least plausible.
From there, I was able to lay down my new outlines and re-profile my characters. This month, there’s been a lot of spontaneous scribbling in notebooks and on Post-Its as new ideas occur to me, as well as reading more Titanic reference books to get an even better feel for the setting. I’ve also started reading the writing guidebook Save The Cat Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody, which has been very useful and illuminating so far, as I find I can apply the plot and character concepts it raises, to my own draft.
As I hadn’t been sure I could turn the chaos of my notes and half-done plans into order, successfully doing so served as a confidence booster. Knowing that I was on the right path also gave me something that’s been crucial: an endpoint, at least for this stage in the process. I’m focusing on one plotline at a time, and I’ve got a good idea of what I need to either polish or re-write at each point. Once I’ve done that, the second draft will be complete. The project will still not be finished by then; there will be at least a few more drafts to come, each one focusing on a different area of improvement, like descriptions. But the proper foundations of the story will be in place, and shouldn’t need as much substantial re-working in subsequent drafts.
With a plan in place, and a goal that I can actually visualise, I’m feeling much more motivated than in previous Camps. And once this month is done, I fully intend to carry on into August!