Planning The Plan: NaNoWriMo As A Case Study
(This is the first in an experimental tradition of posting whatever-the-hell I feel like on the weekends. For more info on that, see this. Now, carry on please!)
You know what NaNoWriMo is, right?
National Novel Writing Month. Each November, a gazillion and twelve idiots promise that they will write a novel. In 30 days.
I know. It’s nuts. If you take on this task, you’ll be moody, cranky, frustrated, and bi-polar throughout November. Your head will hurt, your eyes will burn, and you’ll need an industrial size bottle of Febreze because you’ll forget to shower.
Yeah. I know.
I’m doing it again, too.
I didn’t expect to be NaNo-ing this year, what with the new site to tend and the old one to revive, but all the pre-writing buzz on Twitter (plus nudges from AbbyKerr and EleanorWragg) convinced me. Abby, being the industrious thing that she is, has put together a downloadable pre-writing plan for the month of October, and a lot of people seem to be chugging along with it, as well as with the Twitter hashtag, #NaNoLove.
And plannin’ rocks.
But the one year out of three (3!) that I won NaNo?
I entered at the last-minute, threw together the idea, had great fun, and churned out my 50k words. The next two years? I had a great concept, well thought out plot, complex character studies, and a lot of background info. It was going to be SO rockin’!
I didn’t make it past 10,000 words.
Turns out that any pre-writing or detailed plotting is disruptive for me. It makes me want to write *now*, and choking back that creative impulse kills the flow, permanently. It makes sense, considering what I know about brain-training. I was actually wiring writer’s block into my brain, training my neurons to resist writing!
Don’t do that. Pre-write, plot, write love letters, fake journal entries, whatever. But don’t fight back your creative impulses for the sake of some loosely defined rules.
Me, I’m back to the cherished, official NaNo tradition of mostly winging it.
But just because I’m not plotting doesn’t mean I don’t need to plan. There is a bit of backwork I’d like to get done, to make things work a bit smoother. With that in mind, I’m testing out a new approach to planning itself. If this works, it could become a Thing, which would be really awesomely cool.
Finding The Mindset:
The loose story idea I have involves a heroic journey, some parody, and big doses of charm, allegory and silliness. To help me get set my mood and wake up the right neural pathways, I thought I’d make a list of appropriate reading material, movies and music.
It’s really long, so you might want to scroll past it.
Way past it.
- The Muppet Show /Muppet Movies
- The Princess Bride
- Where The Wild Things Are (multiple versions! yay!)
- Monty Python (for something completely different)
- Dinosaurs (the TV series. AGAIN!!)
- Willy Wonka! The original, of course. Extra emphasis on the songs.
I’d like to take at least one of the above, dismember its plot, and loosely model mine upon it. That idea comes from No Plot, No Problem, and at seems easy enough, right?
I’ll likely upgrade the Netflix subscription for this, and that also means nagging the spouse to *please* return films in a timely manner. (Nag, nag nag)
- Gaelic Storm – Oft humorous Celtic Folk
- Jason Mraz – wordplay that makes me smile
- The soundtracks to Where The Wild Things Are (I just listened to the samples. Yes yes a thousand times yes)
- Yael Naim (esp New Soul, but explore her other stuff)
- Bruises by Chiarlift
- Maybe some stuff from Tribal Derivations, and Circus Contraption. Especially Circus Contraption.
Normally, I just write to ambient music (if anything at all) but I think this time I might create a sort of soundtrack. Things to consider?
Maybe use one song as an intro-to-writing anchor, another as a move-back-to-the-real-world trigger, another as a getting-past-the-block thing? Some on-the-treadmill stuff would be good too. Oh, and never forget “Push The Boulder” From Communicatrix. It’ll be fun to research and plan all of this.
And it’ll be worth a month’s subscription to a music service, I think.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide/Anything by Douglas Adams
Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass
The Princess Bride
A Dash of P.G. Wodehouse
The Wild Things (based on the movie)
A good dose of Doug Adams is crucial to catch the right surreal weird. Do not skip this step, Ms. Deaux!
- Anything Dr. Suess
(It just feels right)
Also: remember to get to the drawing board, collage things, draw things, trace things, whatever. It’s becoming a crucial part of my planning/work process, and – well – it seems especially right for this!
Making The Space:
In order to pull this off, I’m going to need some extra elbow room physically, mentally, and schedule wise.
Here’s how I hope that will go:
- Prepare at least 4 extra non-NaNo blog posts in advance, so that this lovely new site doesn’t die of neglect while I’m busy obsessing.
- I want the house clean! Seriously. I can’t write if I’m fretting over laundry, dirty dishes, and piled up stacks of paper.
- Get the treadmill desk working again. Movement is good for the mind.
- Get back in the habit of daily schedules. I’ve taken a liking to TeuxDeux for this, and I think it’ll work fine.
Also. The Musts:
- There’s paper work that MUST get done.
- There’s an art commission that MUST be completed.
- All of the circus parade art? Mail it. This week.
- The desk area? Yeah. Clean.
- Kitchen? Under control please. And remember Thanksgiving happens.
There’s a little mind trick here – each of these mundane, boring and oft-procrastinated tasks suddenly becomes part of noveling, and thus more bearable.
How cool is that? When cleaning the fridge becomes part of noveling? Yay noveling!
Shopping The Spree:
This is usually the best part, but I’m broke, dammit!
I will still get my NaNoWriMo halo donation made, of course.
Luckily, I have plenty of loverly large notebooks and papers to play with, so that’s not a problem. My mascot has signed on again for this year (You can meet him later) so that’s taken care of!
But.. snacks! Yes, we must have snacks. Easy to eat, quick, snacks, preferably also brain foods.
- Vitamin Water Zero (I freeze them into slushies. Yum)
- Dehydrated fruits – berries, apricots, cherries.
- Dark Chocolate, preferably sugar-free or low sugar
- Nuts! Esp. almonds & walnuts
- Tuna fish kits – Walmart has them for about a buck each.
- And those little Lunchable things? Yeah. Deli Creations sandwiches, mini-chip bags, pre-cubed cantalope! Awesome.
- One year, I discovered that I loved Starbucks canned espresso but I can’t find the light version now, and I don’t need the sugar. I can check Starbucks stores, though.
I’ve been wanting to experiment with smoothies. That could be fun. Easy vitamins, extra protein!
A wee bit of extra planning for dinners would help, too. Casseroles. Crockpot. Easy stuff the spouse can make himself. Paper plates, plastic forks. We can be not-green for one month, you know?
I have a couple of bottles of unopened wine, some tequila, might want to pick up some more margarita mix. I don’t drink often, but it’s a nice little ritual for this.
Should I stumble across an extra chunk of change, I’d love this NaNoWriMo hoodie. Really. Buy it for me! But I’d be happy with the totebag. And merit badges. If I win the lottery (which is unlikely because I don’t play) I promise to do the $2,500 donation. Because NaNo rocks that much.
And then there’s the family size bottle of Febreze…
A Few Random Strays:
- Pick a notebook for handwritten scribblings, Tori. Label it. Seriously. Do this so you don’t have little bits scattered everywhere.
- Chain a pen to it so the dog doesn’t steal it. (and you know she’ll chew through ribbon)
- That binder you used for that excessive plot/plan last year? Yeah. Clean it out. Use it to organize this plan-without-a-plot.
- A possible reward: When you reach your word count goals, go cyber shopping for 30 minutes. Find ridiculous, fun, marvelous stuff, add it to a blog post wishlist. Publish it weekly.
Misc. Good Stuff.
Ok, I think that about does it.
This is really, really long, and likely really, really dull if you don’t live in my head.
But if you read through all of this blather, here’s a little treat:
The story I’m planning ties in perfectly with The Circus Serene. As an added bonus, there are Poodles of Depression, a Swamp of Many Uncertain Dooms, and a Map We’re Not Using Anymore. So stay tuned. This promises to be a lot more fun than expected.
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Wow, you’re still here? I’m impressed! You must be a NaNoWriMo fan. Awesome!
If you’re doing NaNo, drop your name into the comments and I’ll buddy you. If you’re not doing NaNo, please ignore the insanity that the rest of us will be exhibiting for the next two months. It will be over soon.