A Text Adenture

November Novels

A Diary of Writing in November by Donavan Hall

2015: The End of Days

Final Word Count: 53,593

NaNoWriMo 2015: The Post-interview

You announced on Twitter on the 29th of November that you’d finished your novel. First, congratulations! Second, what do you plan on doing with the novel you wrote? What’s next for this project?

Thank you. Even though I “finished” the novel by writing a chapter which tied up the loose ends, the book is incomplete. I probably have about half the material written that I planned to write. So at the very least, I’ll need to expand on the truncated / abbreviated storylines. But I’m not in any hurry. I’m going to let this draft sit for a month or two, and then I’ll see what I feel like doing.

One possibility is to break the book up into three or four different books. What I figured out while writing the book is that, of the six storylines, only two are necessarily connected. For the purposes of this draft, all the storylines are linked in some way, but there’s nothing that says these storylines have to be part of the same story. What I’m thinking is that this draft might be a sketch for a series of interrelated, interlinked novels. When I was describing the outline to Alice, she pointed out that several of the authors she likes to read have done similar things: writing a series where it’s the world that holds the books together and not one, single strong central character. For example, each book in the series my feature a different protagonist, or set of main characters. But those characters might only play minor or supporting roles in the other books.

You’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo for eleven years now. How was this year different from previous years? What did you learn?

This year was a throwback to those exciting early years of 2004 and 2005 when I had a group of writing buddies to share the experience with. At least that is what I hoped to recreate. I wanted that sense of “we’re all in this thing together and we’re going to succeed, no matter what the cost.” In the end, writing is a solitary activity. The reality is that you wake up before sunrise each morning and sit in a room by yourself with the door closed and you type. Those two hours you spend at the writing desk each morning before the day starts are lonely, hard hours of labor. Sure, the labor has its rewards. The act of writing is an opportunity to visualize intently another world, to enter into the lives of others. I travel to far away places without ever leaving my writing desk. I experience things that I would never experience in real life. But it’s hard to share that experience with anyone else directly.

You asked how this year was different? Okay. Well, this year I decided to follow the rules. I started a brand new novel and wrote a beginning, middle, and end. This year’s work is self-contained. I’m not saying it’s done; it’s certainly not complete. It’s like Swiss cheese. Full of holes. But this is the closest I’ve ever come to writing a fully plotted novel. And this point feeds into what I learned this last month.

I learned that I can work from an outline. The outline I had wasn’t very good. I’d only spent a couple of days at the end of October throwing it together, but I thought I would need some kind of script to work from. NaNoWriMo is pretty intense. There’s hardly any time to sit around and wonder what you’re going to write next. When you wake up each morning, you’d better know what you’re going to write by the time that pot of coffee is brewed, otherwise you’re wasting time. This year, because I had the outline, I could just look on the list and see exactly what I needed to do during that morning’s writing session.

Several times in the past I’ve tried outlining a story ahead of time — in fact, I have a whole box of three by five cards with outlines of a dozen short novels. I went through an outlining frenzy a few years back thinking that I needed more up-front organization. After sketching out the story on three by five cards I then wrote out a two page synopsis of each card. What I discovered was that by the time I’d done the outlining and the synopsis writing, I didn’t feel like actually writing the book. The problem though wasn’t with the process of outlining, the problem was that I realized I wasn’t all that interested in writing those stories. It’s better to figure out during the prep stage that you don’t need to write a novel than to wait until you have fifty thousand words written.

If I’ve learned one thing during this NaNoWriMo, it’s that I need to go through the preparation phase before I start writing.

For the past year though, you’ve been working on a novel that was completely unplotted. Are you saying that you’ll never write another unplotted novel again? Have you given up on the “method of Aira”?

No, I can’t say that I’ve give up on the method of Aira. I’ve barely even begun my experimentation with that method, the method of the constant flight forward. The book I’ve been working on since last February (which I hope I’ll finish sometime this month [December 2015]) is a practical application of that method and the subject reflects the nature of the constraints placed on the project. The book is divided into five or six episodes, but the two main parts are called The Fear of Falling and The Art of Flying. The part of falling has to do with facing the fear of failure (roughly) and the part of flying is about learning to trust the constant flight forward. So, clearly this was not a book that I could have planned out in the same way that I planned The End of Days [this year’s November novel].

I’ll probably continue to write short books using the method of Aira. Those are fun books to write and they allow me complete freedom. But I now that I’ve experienced the power of preparation and the confidence that comes with writing from an outline, I’m sure that I’ll be spending more time outlining my potential books before actually writing them. Even if I only end up spending the month of October working on an outline for my November novel, I’ll keep this skill as part of my writerly toolset.

Related

  1. Donavan’s Brain: Sunday, 13 September 2015
  2. Donavan’s Brain: Thursday, 24 September 2015