“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.” — Alfred A. Montapert
We’re at the end of Week One and by now you should be feeling the rhythm of your story. If you feel like you don’t have a rhythm, maybe it’s something about your story. Somewhere along the way, you write something and it comes out…different. Maybe it’s just a minor detail that adds color and maybe it’s something that sends everything careening in a different direction that you didn’t anticipate, but you know this is a thread you have to follow.
Since I’m something of a pantser, I can roll with that idea. Some of my best stuff has come from things I absolutely didn’t know were going to be there. But I’ve seen friends who are determined, dedicated plotters faced with that, and often all one can do is feed them chocolate and help them get through the panic. Once they can deal with the fact the story absolutely insists on going in that direction because their subconscious has made some leap they hadn’t anticipated, they’re usually much better at figuring out just how deep the rabbit hole goes and are back on track while the rest of us are still digging.
So how do you know if you’re on the right track when things start veering wildly? Ask a few questions:
Does it fit in somehow with what you’ve already written? (A new start for the book or a moment between existing scenes? This could be good.)
Will adding this cause you to do extensive rewrites to the story while you’re in the middle of drafting? (Not necessarily good, but if you feel really strongly about it, you may decide that’s worth the risk.)
Does this idea have absolutely no connection to anything you’ve written to this point and you’re going to be leaving all that behind to start over? (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!)
Let me confess that while the intent of NaNoWriMo is that you start something and finish it, I have had years where the story you start to tell really isn’t the story you need to be telling at this point. I have dumped a week of work and started fresh with a new idea that was burning in my brain, racing to catch up with my word count. That’s usually worked pretty well because the idea hit me so strongly that I had to work on it now or I was going to be unhappy.
I’ve also been a victim of “Look! Shiny!” on more than one occasion. That’s your inner editor talking, teasing you with the thought that what you’re not writing is the better idea. Your problem, if your story rhythm doesn’t feel right and something else is poking at your brain to be let in, is to determine which is which. Guess what? We don’t usually know until we’ve taken the dive.
So how do you know when to leap and when not to? You have to stop and listen to your gut. There’s getting inspiration and there’s deciding to jettison a bunch of hard work on a whim. If you stop and think about it and trust yourself, you’ll know. Remember, NaNoWriMo is all about trusting yourself, and there’s no harm in scribbling that brilliant idea down in a notebook and moving on. The good ones will be there waiting for you when December rolls around.
Word Count Goal: 11,666