November starts in a few days, and with it comes National November Writing Month. After taking last year off, I’m back in it again so expect half-coherent posts next month as I try and slog out 50,000 words.
Or more, ideally. I’ve spent a good chunk of this year reverse-engineering an outline from the novel accumulated over my prior NaNoWriMos and working the kinks out of the plot in the hope of being able to write a draft next month that’s more legible than the somewhat-unhinged Draft Zero I have at present. I wrote this 800-odd-page novel almost entirely by the seat of my pants, fueled by that very specific manic anxiety that comes about when taking part in NaNoWriMo. There was off-the-cuff planning, sure, as the pages of notes I wrote during work shifts are testament to, but much of it was very much improvised. So part of the work I’ve been doing is figuring out where to put Chekhov’s gun on the mantel.
It is encouraging, though, to know that this is fairly common for most all stories. Tolkien’s drafts of The Lord of The Rings are well documented and you can see the story coming together over time. Much of it was outlined as he went, with a plan for the next chapter and the overarching plot being about the extent of it. It looks like he was already writing what would become The Two Towers when he realized that Saruman would be a major player in the plot, thus needing to not only go back and set up Saruman but also figure out that whole plot. The idea of the palantir came later and, with it, the cause of Saruman’s fall and the corruption of Denethor. Bits and pieces come together and, if you’re lucky, it ends up making sense.
Tolkien was lucky, but also a really good writer.
Writing is rewriting, or so the old adage goes. Stories seldom emerge from the ether fully formed; there’s a lot of excavating and editing that go into it making it work. I like reading drafts of movie scripts because you can see how far they’ve changed before becoming either the shooting script and again when the movie is actually shot. Ideas get cultivated into being better versions of themselves and excess baggage is dropped. It’s all part of the process; writing is rewriting.
Anyway, so there’s my November.