NaNoWriMo mistakes and outlook

It’s been silent here in the last week, but fear not, I have gone nowhere.

I spent the last week toying with the next project that tentatively pushed itself forward now that my brain has space for a new idea. It’s not completely new and I really like it, though it’s still very raw and has nothing more than three characters and genre(s). I also thought about how to go about it and how to incorporate it into the blog.

I still like the idea of doing things project style, because in the end, every story is a project.

But before I dive into the next challenge and my thoughts on what I want from it, I want to do a quick review of my “failure”.

Thinking back to how I tackled my NaNoWriMo project, I noticed a few crucial mistakes, that all revolve around the same aspect:

  1. I concentrated too hard on the character arcs. Yes, they are important. And I love them still, and I will always be focused very strongly on characters because that is what I like, and what I am good at. But, and here comes the big big mistake I made: the rest won’t fall into place just because the author wills it so.
  2. I based my whole story on a premise that was, at best, sloppily planned. Then I changed it. Then I changed it back. Now that might work for a different kind of plot, but a lot of the logic of mine was based on that initial premise. Whole sections only made sense if that assumption hold true. When it started to crumble, so did my whole story.
  3. I focused a lot on world building, magic system, even legends of the world. On the characters’ back stories, on characters and story arcs that wouldn’t even be in this particular book I was writing. Other, more immediately important things, got pushed to the back or not tackled at all.

All three mistakes hinge on the same thing: plot.

While I am a super fast plotter regarding initial ideas and how things come together in a first, stream of consciousness like moment, I tend to avoid the hard work that is needed to build on that.

I usually write stories that have intricate plots. There are often intrigue and betrayal, things are not as they seem and elements of mystery shape the narrative. These are things that my mind comes up with and that I love, but they are also the type of story that is heavily reliant on very meticulous plot work.

So, for future projects, these are the pointers that I take from this NaNoWriMo:

  1. Focus on the hard stuff: plot better and in more detail.
  2. Do what I hate most: take my plotwork to writer friends (it’s not you,guys, it’s me) and have them put their two cents in. Do that before doing any serious writing.
  3. Learn more about plotting, plot methods, story structure and genre conventions.

This list gives some structure to what comes next.

Before tackling any new writing, I’ll immerse myself a bit more into theory, maybe do some plotting exercises, things like that. Since the story I have in mind is a mystery, plot and structure are crucial and this will prove a perfect learning opportunity.

The idea will also entail a lot of research of the topical kind (yay! my inner historian is very happy about that!) because it will be set in an alternate history, steampunkish setting. Both things are not supposed to be major plot points but to provide a unique setting that allows me to play off it a little. I know my two main characters already, who will be a (more or less reluctant) detective duo.

I am looking forward A LOT to all of this, but given the list of mistakes I just presented, I also am aware of the fact that this has the potential to become an absolute disaster. Which is why I find it such an excellent learning opportunity.

Can’t say no to an exciting challenge!


One thought on “NaNoWriMo mistakes and outlook”

  1. I’ve never been much of a plotter, which can land me in some pretty sticky messes…I often have to double back and redo entire chapters. I’m getting better at it. Now I have to write three chapters and a synopsis to be considered, so I often at least have that to work from as I finish the book.


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