Not-So-Official NaNo Update #1: Ideas and the Dollar store

First update.
This is going to be a quick (and therefore probably messy) post. I’ll try to keep this coherent post-NaNoDayOne phase.

Hello NaNoers, fellow writers and bloggers.
Reporting from my local write-in, I just cleared through the finish line of the 1667 goal for NaNo.

Honestly I didn’t want to go but I’m SO glad I forced myself to face the dreary weather on this chilly November 1st afternoon. But as promised I needed material for my Update posts, and since I figured my conscience was just too big to lie and feel good about it, I decide to pack up my laptop and bundle for the inclement weather.

So this part is all about ideas…and the dollar store?

IMO one of the most frequent qs I hear directed at authors/writers is “how do I/you write a book?” Another variation of this question can be “Where do I start if I don’t have an idea?”

I think we ALL are capable of ideas, but that extra level flavouring these questions above is “how do I know my ideas are any good” (especially if I’m considering publication). Simple answer: you don’t. I mean, sometimes you do, but you really can’t know unless you’re actually done drafting for the first time.

You see a first draft is part ‘oh-what-was-I-thinking’ and part ‘there’s-something-here-somewhere-deep-under-all-the-crap’. And I think sometimes the first part stops us from seeing our first drafts through to some “end”. You probably heard it before, but you can’t edit a blank page (the genius of Nora Roberts).

You JUST can’t. It’s physically impossible. But try it by all means and you’ll see my point very quickly: and that point is, you have to mire through all the suckage that will be your 1st draft.

So where do the lack of ideas come to play?

Well sometimes when you’re hung up on waiting for that perrrrrrfect idea to strike, or you DO have this fantastic idea for a story but it’s not coming out on page the way it looks like in your head…

First, you’re not alone. My current WIP has been an ongoing “should-I-do-this-or-should-I-abandon-it” tug-of-war. Why? Because it wasn’t matching up with the awesomeness going on in my head.

Secondly, you’re the only one who can pull yourself out. The answer for why you didn’t write anything isn’t out in the Internet (so stop wasting your time surfing the net when you could be writing), it’s locked in your head.

So where do ideas come from?
I think it was Stephen King who said, from Walmart…

Are you back from Walmart yet?
Okay, you realized ideas are a little bit harder to get than just a quick trip. “But my friend just got an idea in the shower”, you cry — and I say “great”! Great for your friend. But ideas don’t equal plot. Not decent plot anyways.

Takeaway nugget then: ideas do not a plot make.
What makes a plot is planning, of some sort, or a pantsing approach that still takes into consideration characters’ goals, motivations, conflicts (GMCs), etc. I mean, you don’t REALLY need this, but I believe these are the basics.

I’m more a pantser, so I like to think I know what I’m talking about. What I did this time around is grab my lovely colour-coded index cards and (since I’m writing a romance) plotted out my hero and heroine’s GMCs and their romantic GMC as an overall.

(green for heroine, orange for hero, pink? for romance GMC)
After that I took regular lined cards and . This go around I’m using something called the “headlight” method to plot my chapters. TL;DR version*: that means I only have a certain amount of chapters plotted beforehand (so right now I got my prologue and Chapter One, that’s all).
Today I whipped out the ‘prologue’ card and went to work on this chapter. I’m hoping to keep this going and not burn out before the end of November (although OFFICIALLY I’m not don’t NaNo this year).
Caveat: I’m letting my pantsing self go nuts whenever I can just because it gets the words out — and sometimes those words are actually really good.


(got the lined index cards from the dollar store, where magic is hidden behind some other questionable products)

All in all don’t let the lack of ideas seduce you, don’t let the fact that your great idea is just too great for paper/computer stop you: just run with it and see where these plot bunnies lead you. Just make sure to bring an umbrella for a day like today when the rain is unpredictable and the plot bunnies lead you astray.

*Want the longer version? Check out this Swoonreads blog where I stole this idea from!

One thought on “Not-So-Official NaNo Update #1: Ideas and the Dollar store

  1. I kind of use the headlight method when rough drafting. I don't write anything down before drafting, but usually I make note of what needs to happen as a result of what's happening in what I'm busy with at the moment. (Holy cow that's a loooooooooooooooong sentence.) When I don't know, I stop and work on something else for a while. (So I guess it's like changing cars when the one's lights die.)

    Good luck with NaNo!


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