(Post-)NaNoWriMo: Week Five.

NaNo has taken me to about 50-60% of the way through the story, and there’s still a good ways to go.

Now that I’m less focused on word count and more on finishing the story, I’m finding myself stalling. Zuhal’s story has been remarkably smooth going and I’ve just about written all of it up to the plot convergence, but I’m getting bogged down in Nonide’s story. This is a problem, because the main plot and inciting external events all revolve around her. The more I write her story, the less coherent it seems, the more structural weaknesses appear, to the point where I’m not sure that the scene progression and the overarching logic makes sense anymore. Truth be told, I deliberately stopped my pre-NaNo storyboarding right after the convergence, and told myself that I would figure it out when I get there. Well, here I am, and still clueless.

Part of it involves world-building and technology (the “science” part of the science fantasy), which is still somewhat in flux. I might have to actually nail down the world-building and be satisfied with it, before I can resolve these plot problems. Ugh, I’ve never had my world-building form the foundation for a story, so this is a new discomfort to stress-test it and find that it isn’t quite holding up!

I’m very tempted to pause the draft and rework my plot issues before continuing, but I’m also worried that when I stop, I’ll never pick it up again. Dilemma, dilemma. But for now, I’m determined to push through to The End, plot holes be hanged. But my writing is falling back into really lousy mediocrity. Argh, I need to finish this thing! What to do…

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…turns out that the thing to do was to take a step back. After angsting about this for a day, I had a time out and listed all the scenes I’d yet to write, and made a discovery: most of them were subplots, and practically all of them were in Nonide’s storyline. Yes, they are important subplots and are directly related to character growth, but none of them are strictly necessary to push the main plot forward. Furthermore, now I recognized them as the culprits bogging down N’s story!

At this stage, I’m tired of subplots and just want to get to the end, darnnit. So as strange as it feels to me, I’m going to ditch all the remaining subplots for now, and just hammer away at the main plot. The subplots have been very well mapped and I don’t think I’ll have a problem with writing them in later. And I think it’s imperative that I finish the main plot now, because it’s the most problematic part of the novel and hasn’t been outlined; if I stopped it now I doubt I’d be able to pick up all the threads again. So I’ve already triggered the endgame (yes, I was able to jump straight to that scene immediately!), and everything is now flowing towards the climax!

Lessons learnt:
I always knew that DW was a complex, multi-layered story, but I didn’t realize how challenging it was to organize and write. When I was prepping DW for NaNo, I made the outline by brainstorming a pile of scenes, sorting through the pile, and putting all the scenes on a chronology, but without regard to which plotline they were part of. I have been writing straight through N and Z’s storylines without regard of how they will play into each other, and while this has been good for my sanity, I got a little bit lost and didn’t notice that I was mired in subplot until recently — and after the NaNo writing frenzy wore off.

In the midst of this stepping-back process to find a clear path to follow, I worked out an outlining method that may help with this, which I’ll have to test one day. Essentially, it’s like grafting the branches of subplots onto the trunk of the main plot. For every scene in a subplot, ask: how is it relevant to the main plot, and how does it drive progression in the main plot along? I’ll have to test this new outlining strategy eventually. Maybe when revising DW.

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