MOPNoWriMo Day 3: First Contact with the Enemy (1/2/2012)

Day three: Target wordcount: 3000 (errands to run). Words written: 3300

A chapter and a half done today. All the major characters are now in play and it feels a bit like setting up a position on a chessboard. Like trying to reproduce a famous opening and not quite remembering how it goes and getting somewhere close but not being quite sure and now I’ve played it and it’s not quite how I remembered it, which might mean that it’s a brilliant and startling innovation or else that it has a critical flaw in its defence that’s going to make everything unravel later. And like a game of chess, the only way to know is to play it out and see what happens.

A first draft is not the beginning of a story. I’d hazard there are almost no authors at all who sit down in front of a blank script and start writing with absolutely no idea of genre, character, theme or plot, although it does now sound temptingly zen and also dangerously close to how I write blog posts. From what I’ve seen, we all have our own ways of preparing for the First Draft. Some plan with meticulous precision and copious notes. Some seem to come up with a single idea, and think, Oooh, a story about a Belgian parakeet who talks to the dead and off they go without any idea of anything more, making it up as they go along. Personally I need a little more, although sometimes not very much (Dragon Queen, for example: The Taiytakei steal dragons and, while they’re at it, a dragon-queen. Consequences ensue. Good enough for a novel twice as long as this one, that was, although the first rewrite was colossal). For Chromium, I’ve started from a four-page synopsis, one page with very brief character outlines and three pages that gives a sentence or two to each of the chapters I thought I was going to write. Generally speaking I find the more work I do up front, the better the first draft is, although though that neither always works out nor equates necessarily to a better final product. The idea this time was that a very brief synopsis for each chapter ought to make starting to write each one somewhat easier.

Anyhow, this is about the point in the first draft where all that planning starts to fray at the edges. Ideas that looked fine in a two-page synopsis now appear dull and contrived when put into proper prose. The characters are mostly as they were intended, but one of them is developing more, ah, personality than expected and the main threat has turned out a bit crunchier that intended. This is all to the good, but has mades one of the intended relationships quite different. However, my main no-plan-survives-contact-with-the-enemy thing right now is that the story I’ve written seems to have found a short-cut around the synopsis that eradicates the need for about four planned chapters. At the same time, the lead character finds himself in a situation that wasn’t quite as I’d intended it at this point and a character I didn’t even know existed when I started looks like they might be making a significant part for themselves. So far none of this seems to derail the main storylines and merely weaves them in a different way.

Not that this is at all unusual, but this is where it really hits home that I’m walking into the unknown.


Leave a Reply