#NaNoWriMo: I Made An Outline For This

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Current word count:

I used to be very hardcore about outlining. In college, I outlined my papers on half-sheets of paper and then taped those outlines to the monitor of my computer to keep them in my field of vision as I worked. I first got into fiction writing by helping to outline someone else’s1 project. And when I first finally started writing fiction by myself, I outlined in minute detail–every beat, every breath, every break.

I still outline short stories, actually, roughing out the beats before I start the actual writing, but I haven’t outlined a novel in years. I didn’t outline Ariah or Resistance at all. But with my NaNoWriMo project, The Analog System, I don’t have the luxury of working in a universe I’ve defined yet. I did some worldbuilding, some basic foundation laying, in October, but I also actually outlined a plot. Start all the way to finish.

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Potential spoilers in these cards, FYI

It was hard. I am rusty. I kept getting stuck, so then I’d do some more worldbuilding, or flag questions I needed to research about worldbuilding, or else-wise procrastinate. I ended up googling “novel three act structure” because, hell, I don’t need something fancy for a first draft, just something tried-and-true, something serviceable.

I came across a helpful post at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University and forced my way through it.

It felt weird defining the plot before I knew all the ins and outs of the universe. It felt even weirder making plot decisions before I knew who the cast of characters would be. But I didn’t want to sprint my way into a dead end with NaNoWriMo. I needed a road map for this one.

It felt very weird, but I did it. Now, let’s just see if I follow it.


1That project was my partner’s short story, which eventually turned into the world of Aerdh. The most direct descendant of that fateful initial short story is probably Cargo.

NaNoWriMo 2015!

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I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year!

I’ve never done it before. It’s funny, because when I told my partner I was doing it she looked at me cock-eyed and said, “right, because you really need a special project to make you write more.”

But I do. Let me explain:

I’ve had this nugget of a piece of a cool sci-fi concept bouncing around my brain for a while now. Maybe a year and a half? Maybe almost two years? A while. But I haven”t found the time to develop it or the right way to do it. Meanwhile, I keep writing other stuff.

A few weeks ago I realized this kernel of an idea was actually sprouting into a novel. And I realized that though I’ve written…nine-ish novels (many of which are unpublished) all of those novels are set in Aerdh–the same universe as Ariah and Resistance.

I had myself half-convinced that I could not actually write a novel that was not set in my familiar, stalwart universe of Aerdh. It’s my safe space as a writer. But I don’t want to just hang out in my safe space forever; I want to stretch and grow, too. The nice thing about something like NaNoWriMo is that it’s a dedicated time and space to try something different. With NaNo, I’m more or less giving myself permission to step away from the current projects I have going and try this new, unfamiliar, exciting thing I’m afraid to fail at.

Worst case scenario is that I scrape some words out of my brain and throw them in Scrivener and they don’t make any sense.

Best case scenario is that I take a rough pass at something currently out of my comfort zone and eke out something revision-worthy.

Wish me luck! Ok, now for the big reveal. Here’s what I’m working on for NaNoWriMo:

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This is a working title. I am so bad at titles, y’all. Anyway, you can follow my updates on twitter or over on the NaNo website!

Iris Volek is an analog serving Universe 3. Chosen for her prodigious memory, at sixteen Iris is one of the few people in the world who can enter a pocket universe and converse with people from parallel universes: her other selves born into worlds where history took different turns. But suddenly the other analogs around her start to disappear—taken into “containment” by the powers that be. And Iris knows that once an analog is “contained” they never come back. Iris must find out why the analogs are disappearing and stop it—because she might be “contained” next.