Posted by: Jodi | November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Making Changes, Being Flexible

Bust of Nefertiti

Any of you familiar with the process of writing a novel length story understand that it might not go as planned.  You may have thought that you had it all planned out; your outline complete; your beginning, middle, and ending in place; and all you had to do was sit down and write it.

Then, after about 8,000 – 10,000 words your characters started to come to life and argue with your plans.  Perhaps one refused to be attracted to the person to whom they were assigned.  Maybe they had different ideas on what adventure they wanted to go on. With luck, their ideas are better than yours and everything is still flowing smoothly. If not, you may need to have a sit down with your characters and explain that you are the boss and they have to shape up or ship out.

Thankfully my characters are behaving themselves, as long as I give them freedom to do whatever they want – one of the perks for not having an outline.  However, as I reached the end of the week I discovered part of my concept was so complicated that it would be better and easier to take a different approach.

My original plan was to write half of the story in modern-day and the other half based around the life of Nefertiti.  The two were going to merge in a brilliant way I hadn’t thought of yet and Voila – the next Da Vinci Code.   The funny thing about writing something historically accurate is that you have to know that history backwards and forwards.  I didn’t.  I found myself spending more hours learning about the fascinating life of Nefertiti and customs of the royal palace than writing about them.  Time for a compromise.

After careful thought I decided to drop the Nefertiti storyline, I can’t do it the justice it deserves.  Instead, I will focus on the modern-day story,  which is more than plenty to finish NaNoWriMo.   At the end, if the story feels complete without it then making the change was a good decision, if not then I know I have something to work on.

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Responses

  1. I am so familiar with characters “taking over”. Not that it is in any way supernatural. For me, as I build a character (I do make vagure outlines), the personality of said character begins to form…. and, once formed, some of the actions I planned no longer work. Character A might do 1,3 and 5, but she would never to do 2 and 6. It just isn’t like her.

    Sure, we can force them, but in the end, then, their actions would be… well, forced.

    • Forced is such a strong word, I was thinking more along the lines of helping them understand the logic of a certain decision and then letting them figure out the best way to get there.

  2. Pretty ambitious concept for a blitz novel. I’d love to read such a thing if you ever decide to write it.

    • I sure hope it’s something worth reading when I’m done with it! I still have no idea how it may end but I think it will be fun.

  3. Well you are brave…I am hopeless when I have to let go of a terrific idea which is what the whole ‘Nefertiti mingling’ storyline sounded to me. I usually cling on to such ideas, stubbornly refusing to shift. In the end though, the characters always beat the author so much better to give in early and with grace. Good on you.

    • Looking back on the decision I still think it was the right one for this particular project, it dragged and fought being written. Now things are flowing much smoother.

  4. Historicals scare me to death, too. Whatever you write about, some expert will tear you apart for any inaccuracy they find. That’s why I prefer to either stick with the world I know, or just make up my own.

    • I used to say creating a world was much harder than writing real world stories, now I have to change my tune – historicals are 100X harder than created worlds because of the accuracy factor.

  5. Congrats on the 15,000. I’m at 12, but hope to bump that up today. Sometimes we have to kill our darlings, that’s just the way it is, better to see it now than to lose a whole badly researched 1/2 novel in revision.

    • Amen, my thoughts exactly. I’m still having a great time learning about the Nefertiti time period and hope to incorporate some of the most interesting bits into this story. That way it gets to live on still.

      Keep on writing, the goal must be reached!

  6. I always struggle with getting the research / writing balance right. I’ve just posted an interview on my blog with an historical crime author who does all his research before writing and advocates researching beyond what you’re ever going to use in the book. Personally, I think I would write a little first, even if you’re just guessing what life was like in that historical period, because you can always do the research later and correct any errors.


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