I’ve done NaNoWriMo four times, which for I have three failed novels (the fourth time I “cheated” and revised/rewrote my memoir). By “failed” I don’t mean I didn’t reach the 50,000 word goal. I did, more so in a couple of cases. I mean the novels suck. One petered out, another is boring as shit, and the third makes no sense at all.
I assumed it was the pressure of writing a novel in a month that was to blame. Or I went off in the wrong direction and couldn’t find my back. But now I’m suspecting it was something else.
I’ve already mentioned that the most I do in terms of planning a novel is write up a character list and a series of events. In fact, I thought even that was too much. I’ve always been under the impression that too much planning and structure would staunch the creative flow, that I should just “start writing” and see where the story took me.
This year I took a few months to actually plan my novel. MB recommended John Truby’s book Anatomy of Story, which has been really helpful. It gives you a step by step in terms of structuring a story – from the premise, to a character web, to the story world, to the scene weave – and TONS of examples illustrating the points.
Basically, every scene, character, and symbol has to be integral to the premise, moral problem, and hero. I’ve always had the problem of creating random characters and scenes without much thought. Basically I throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. In a short piece, I think that’s okay. But in a book-length piece, it’s much harder to do, and undo.
Does this mean I’ll definitely have a successful novel? I don’t know, but I do feel excited to see if all this planning pans out.