Writing without an Outline (Eek.)

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Roxane Gay wrote a super inspirational article over on the NaNo site. Her only rule? Write every day.

As I hinted in Sunday’s post, I kept my prep really simple for NaNoWriMo. I don’t have plot details fleshed out, character lists, and my backstory is super minimal. My perfectionist self was freaking out a little (okay, a lot), but today, when I sat down around 10:15, writers’ block was nowhere to be found. I hit my 2k word goal around 11:30. Cue happy dance.

I’m actually grateful that I didn’t have time to plot out the finer details of my novel. Over the weekend, I did two things. I hand-wrote two letters, one from my main character and another from his love interest. On a separate page, I jotted down random bits of dialogue and descriptive information as it came into my head. Those two things turned out to be a lifesaver today. Big picture ideas are fantastic, but knowing the beginning, middle, and end of my novel tends to distract me from the important work of forming sentences. On the other hand, having these letters written in the voice of my characters gave me something to glance back at when I got stuck.

The other lifesaver was choosing to indulge myself in my personal writing quirk: pages on pages of inner dialogue. I’m a sucker when it comes to revealing a character’s personality through their own thought life. This is probably a side effect of reading too many Russian novels (Crime and Punishment, anyone?). But, instead of suppressing that urge, I’ve decided run with it.

I’m also keeping a running to-do list open in a separate doc as I write. I’m hoping this will give me a nice jumping-off point when I (inevitably) get stuck. Items on my to-do list include the names of several minor characters that have jumped into the narrative, along with a few key words so I can start fleshing them out more. When I hit a wall with Malachi, I plan to switch gears and try tackling the story from these fresh perspectives.

I’m using Google Docs to write and organize my content. I experimented with Dropbox, Evernote, and Pages, and ended up with Google Docs. It’s easy to navigate, I like the idea of being able to access it anywhere, and being able to go full screen helps me shut out distractions and put words down on the page.

After my last post, several of you added me as a buddy over on the NaNoWriMo site, and I’m excited to keep up with your progress! I’d love to keep connecting with you guys, so feel free to add me – my username is Ashley E. Simon.

Happy writing, friends!

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