I was conversing with a friend of mine, who actually is a writer, trying to convince him to join NaNoWriMo. I figured that if I can do it, certainly he could. While I'm still working on getting him on board as my novel-buddy, he did share an interesting article with me.
"How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method" is apparently a pitch to get you to buy this guy's DVD set or something, but it does give a novice writer a method to approach their first novel. It has a few oddities that won't necessarily apply to NaNoWriMo folk (sell your novel, then write it), but it does give you something solid to work from.
The idea is pretty simple; start with the big stuff, build the pieces, then assemble the final product. I thought I'd take a look at how my early NaNoWriMo notes on my sci-fi novel are doing versus this guy's method:
Step 1) One sentence summary: Umm... "Mysterious fellow helps humanity avoid war/obliteration." I built my characters before I built the plot arc, so I'm already off the path. Let's see how I do on the next step.
Step 2) One paragraph summary: Ok, well, I guess I should have started with this framework from the beginning. I have about three pages of notes on the history and workings of the part of the galaxy/universe that my story takes place in. I think I may have committed the most common error of the never-sees-the-light-of-day-fan-fiction genre by working on all the fun details before the important parts that will actually be the story. But at least I have the stage set. I sure hope there's a play on this stage...
Step 3) Character drafts: This I have! Well, I have one of them. I have my Captain Nemo, but not the narrator that gets swept into Nemo's world. I think I'm going with third person, like Tolkien, but now that I think about it, a Jules Verne first person approach might make it more engaging... and I do have that character in place. If I give him some more work, he could bring focus to the attempt. I say "him," but I suppose that's just the combination of my own inherent gender bias, and my lack of confidence that I could portray a female lead effectively. I guess I'll see how the plot comes together, and make that decision when I come back to the characters.
Step 4) Build the skeleton of the novel: Well...
Ok, so you can see where it went from here. I'm way off course, and this approach is entirely alien to the NaNoWriMo "just write!" attitude, but with a little more time here in the last bits of October, I think this approach might help keep November on track, and prevent it from becoming just an exercise in stream-of-consciousness. Besides, you have to give a moment's consideration to a PhD in physics giving you writing tips by referencing a Koch snowflake. At least, I do.
I hope that in sharing this article with me, my friend is slowly approaching the idea of joining me in November's fun.