• NaPoWriMo Week 2 Talk: What To Do When You're Off Course

    "What? Twilight does it all the time. It might be fun! That's the only reason why it's about me and her. Really!"

    Congratulations everyone! You’ve officially reached the halfway point!

    Now, some of you may be soaring past your word count goals (looking at you LaWombat). Some of you may be struggling to keep up because that annoying thing called reality decided to pay you a visit. And some of you (like me) may be right around where you want to be.

    No matter what, as long as you’re stretching yourself by writing more than you would normally, you’re winning NaNoWriMo/NaPoWriMo in spirit. That’s the key thing to remember.

    Now, I thought long and hard about what I should talk about for the halfway point. Then I realized everything I really know about writing is about characters and Monochromatic blew that topic out of the water last week! In fact, the only thing I’m really good at is driving forward with writing. I talked about that a bit last week with Perseverance.

    Then BlastBlaze4, a member of my Discord Server, came up with something interesting when I asked for what to talk about:

    “Maybe something on stories diverging from their original plan? It’s probably the best time since we’re at the halfway point and I can imagine a lot of people struggling with it right now.”

    Hey, I know something about that.

    "Yes, Trixie? Oh, no... this has nothing to do with the fifteen shipfics I wrote last week about some random blue unicorn..."

    Some of you may be Outliners. Some of you may be Discovery Writers.

    Outliners are a lot like Twilight Sparkle. They plan everything, sometimes to a fault. Every moment, every beat, every scene is detailed out in precise pre-calculated scripts. Then they panic when things don’t go according to that plan.

    Discovery Writers are a bit more like Rainbow Dash. They simply react to whatever happens. They have a vague plan for the general future (and maybe some specific ideas of where they want to go), but occasionally get so wrapped up in moment, they forget the big picture.

    Now, of course, there's a massive spectrum in both categories and there’s also a huge spectrum between them.
    "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
    – E. L. Doctorow
    No matter what type you are, stuff isn't going to go to plan. You’re going to come up with new ideas as you write. You’re going to have subplots that become more interesting than the main plot. You’re going to have characters that steal your spotlight.

    "Keeping track of Celestia's shipfics is a nightmare. Thank Harmony Pinkie Pie showed me her filing system."

    So… what happens when you get lost along the way? Even discovery writers need to have a general idea of where their story ends, otherwise, they’ll be forever heading east (yes, I’m teasing, Jurists).

    The first thing to do is consider your end. Where do you want the story to actually go? Is your original ending the best ending for the story you currently have? If not, what is your new ending? Do you even want your story to go that way?

    If this new direction doesn’t work, where did things get off track? Often, that may have happened a while back. Where do you need to course correct?

    (Now, for the purposes of NaNoWriMo, I don’t actually recommend rewriting sections. If you simply have to, keep the section you removed and use it for your monthly word count.)

    Another thing to consider is why you’re off-course. This can happen a bunch of different ways, but I find this is either because a new idea has popped up that causes changes to the plan or your characters have gone off track, either because you may be forcing them out of character or their characters are pointing you down another road.

    Now, what are you supposed to do when you realize you’re off the beaten track? Well, I usually recommend head down that new path for a bit. See where it leads you. You may find it takes you back to your main storyline, just in a cool and different way. It may take you in a totally different direction. If that’s the case, you need to decide what you want the story to be.

    Here’s the truth of the matter: often most effective approach (and the one I hear from many professional authors) is a hybrid approach. That means some outlining, some discovery writing. That’s going to vary depending on you.
    "You need to realize that most writing rules aren't laws, they're rules of thumb."
    ― Patrick Rothfuss
    It’s going to take you some time to find out what’s best. For example, if I outline the entire story from beginning to end, some part of my mind says “Well, you’re done with the story! Move on!” and I find it almost impossible to write.

    "Huzzah! With the name The Moony Maiden, none shall know these tales of love are mine!"

    The key is to learn to adapt. Be willing to experiment! Go down that road less traveled! Maybe your characters have something awesome planned! Listen to them! Listen to your instincts. Listen to your friends (though be careful not to get too bogged down with advice).
    "Beware of advice—even this."
    —Carl Sandburg
    No matter how you write, keep writing! You’re at the halfway mark and you’ve got this. In fact…

    Until next week, this has been Novel Idea! Happy writing!

    P.S. Dubs Rewatcher did an awesome post on a critical part of any piece of fiction: the title! You should totally check it out right here.