NaNoWriMo Prep: Research and Planning

I know I’ve been a bit quiet for a couple of weeks and I do have a reason. I’ve been thinking about attempting NaNoWriMo again this year, so I’ve been doing some prep for that. I have tried to complete it the last two years and have failed pretty miserably. The first year I got to 20,000 words before giving up, last year I got to a measly 8,000 words. I think I had the same problem both years, just a basic lack of planning.
It seems that every writer  has a different opinion on planning a novel and what works for them. Some are full-on planners, doing all their research up front and planning chapter by chapter, even scene by scene, what’s going to happen in their book. Others have the basic skeleton of their story and write from that alone. I’m normally one of the latter, mainly due to my impatience rather than the thought that it actually works for me. When I have an idea I get excited about it and can’t wait to get started so I just jump right in. This works for a few hundred words, maybe even a few thousand, but a soon as I hit the part of the story that I haven’t thought through properly I stop. I get frustrated if I can’t figure out where to go next so I leave it aside to let it simmer in my head for a while and then I get excited about the next idea and the cycle starts again. So I figured that this year I’ll be a planner. I have an idea, I know the beginning and where I want the story to go, I just need to know how to connect it all. So most of the month of October so far has been taken up with research and planning.

I like the research part of writing, it gets really interesting. I love when you read something and have a light bulb moment. The plot hole I was worried about suddenly has a perfect solution or I finally know how to connect the two scenes that have been floating around for a while. The story I’m hoping to write for NaNoWriMo is about a woman who’s sister went missing years before  and how the woman goes about finding out what happened to her. I have to admit that doing the research for this hasn’t all been fun, it’s not always a happy topic to read about. Finding out real-life stories of people who have gone missing, why and how they’re missing, how their family cope with finding out what happened to them and sometimes not finding out at all, it’s not the most uplifting of topics. One thing I am worried about is making sure I get the emotional aspects of it right. The turmoil that a family have to go through not knowing where their loved one is, even years later if there is still no closure, I want to make sure I do it justice, both when the sister goes missing originally and years later when her family are still looking for her.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom in my research though. There are some parts of it that I’ve found interesting. What the police have to look at before they can declare an adult legally missing as opposed to how quickly a child is declared missing is something I never really thought about before. As soon as you turn eighteen there are more questions that have to be asked before you’re on the missing person’s list. The fact that people choose to go missing was something that I found interesting as well, if interesting is the right word. Trying to understand the mindset of people who have gotten so desperate and unhappy in their life that their only way out is to leave, to completely disappear and start over as someone new is difficult but fascinating. It’s all been extremely helpful in planning this story.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit. Hopefully NaNoWriMo will be more successful this year. The jump right in way of writing hasn’t worked for me before, so it’s meticulous planning all the way this time. How about you guys? I’d love to hear how others start their stories. Do you find that you need to plan everything before you can start writing a word or can you jump straight in and work out the kinks along the way?

If you want to check up on my NaNoWriMo progress take a look at my page, and let me know how you’re getting on as well. Best of luck to anyone who’s participating 🙂

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Prep: Research and Planning

  1. I was doing some research the other night that started with the gruesome topic of what happens when someone is stabbed with red-hot metal and ended with me reading about ways that Hollywood gets weapon-making wrong. It was definitely two ends of the awful-interesting spectrum.
    I’m definitely a planner overall. Sometimes if I have an opening scene clear in my head, I’ll start writing without much planning, but as soon as I realize I don’t know for sure where I’m going, I stop and outline the rest of (or most of) the story. In preparation for NaNo, though, I do as much outlining as I can before November.
    Good luck with NaNo this year!

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  2. That sounds like really interesting research. But yeah, it can definitely take you to uncomfortable places depending on what you’re looking at. I hope NaNoWriMo is going well for you so far. I’m definitely glad I planned this year. Good luck with the rest of the month!

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