Unsticking Myself

This week has not been going well on the NaNo planning front! The more I think about my story, the more plot holes I’m confronted with, and the more I want to abandon everything I’ve planned and start from scratch. It’s a major crisis!

Well, maybe it’s not a major crisis, even if I’m mostly unhappy with my current story plan. There’s still quite a bit about my story and my characters that I like and am excited about, but I’ve been having trouble getting into some of my characters’ heads. A lot of them just aren’t feeling real for me, and I’m having a hard time figuring out what the stakes are for them and what’s really motivating them.

This is especially true about my villain. My villain has a purpose and a goal, and I’ve 90% figured out what she’s trying to do. But I haven’t been able to grasp why she’s doing it now, and why she needs it to happen. What will happen if she doesn’t accomplish this nefarious goal of hers? What is her plan to foil my MC? This is but a small sampling of the questions I’ve been wracking my brain over for the past week. I feel like I can’t continue trying to plan out my story without knowing these things, and the clock is ticking; November is fast approaching!

I’ve read advice before that suggests writing a scene from a first-person POV to help understand a character better, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t think to do it until it just sort of happened last night by accident. I never write in first-person anyway, and it came out in my head in third-person, but I imagined a scene with my villain getting her evil on, and it was awesome.

I had never considered writing any scenes from the POV of my villain. I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing it sooner! Not only was it so much fun, but it inspired a whole other breakthrough, which is this: I am going to write from as many characters’ POVs as I want, as many as it takes to understand them and understand what they’re doing and what they want. Will these scenes end up in the final novel? Who knows. I only planned to use my MC as the POV character. But this is a first draft–an experiment, an exercise. I need to write it whichever way makes my characters real for me and gets me to the end.

I have to keep reminding myself that whatever I have planned is changeable. It will continue to change, and if you read my last entry, you know that I’ve changed it so much already. My notes from a week ago don’t even make sense anymore! I feel like I have a pretty good foundation for my first act, and many ideas for what happens after that, but nothing really concrete, nothing that really feels right.

It’s kind of scary, and kind of exciting, to not know where this story is going. The logical, planning side of me (the biggest–or at least the noisiest–side of me, to be honest) is freaking out, thinking that if I don’t have a super-well-thought-out, fail-proof plan, I won’t get those 50,000 words. But the flexible side of me (who doesn’t get out much) is trying to tell me to just go with it, and to have fun, because I need to stop taking things way too seriously. And the logical side knows the flexible side is probably right, but it’s so hard when I have this obsession with Always Being Prepared. I don’t know where that obsession comes from (anxiety issue maybe?), but it’s a pain my ass sometimes.

All this planning has helped me get a sense of where I want to go with the story, but it has not let me truly visualize the story or really get in touch with the characters, despite knowing their backstories. I’m still trying to determine my ideal writing process, but, at least in this case, it seems that planning can only take me so far, and I think that I can’t move forward any more until I’ve put some words down. So maybe my process needs to be Plan-Write-Plan-Write, instead of my current attempted method of Plan-Plan-Plan-Write-Write-Write.

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