Only six days left in November and I’m still working hard on PerNoFiMo – Personal Novel Finishing Month. At this point, I’ve written over 31000 words for my work in progress, tentatively titled “Whip It!” That’s well past the minimum goal of 20K words, and nearing the ultimate goal of 40K for the month. I’m doing good, right?
Eh, not so much. I’ve hit a snag at this point, you see. I started writing “Whip It!” almost three years ago. Back then, it was fresh in my mind and I had lots of ideas. Fortunately, I did put many of those ideas down in various documents. Unfortunately, I jumped right into PerNoFiMo without really digging through those notes first. That wasn’t a problem for the first two weeks, but for the last few days, I’ve been struggling to get through the story because I don’t know where to go with it. I’m the kind of person who prefers to have a story roughly mapped out before I begin to write. I don’t have to have every detail firmly in place, but I do need to know a general direction, and I mean I really need to know it. I need to have a good solid feel for a story, and quite frankly, I don’t have that with “Whip It!” right now.
Nor do I have the research I really need to make this work. The main character in “Whip It!” is a chef trying to start her own catering business. I know jack about catering. I spent a good part of last night searching the web for info on health regulations and food service permits and other such stuff. There are things I’m not sure my characters can do. For example, can you have a naked man in a kitchen during a health inspection? And how does one get a permit to run a catering business? Since much of the plot revolves around the heroine proving to her jerk ex-boyfriend that she can indeed stand on her own two feet and start up her own business, I actually need to show her standing on her own feet and starting up her own business. So I’ve got a lot of research I need to do before I can write certain parts of the story.
In fact, I’ve got so much research and outlining I need to do at this point that actual writing has ground to a halt. I just can’t keep plowing through the story until I take care of these matters. So what to do? Is there anyway I can hit my goal of 40K words?
I’m going to say “Yes!” Let’s face it, PerNoFiMo is my game so I get to set the rules. And the rules say that if I can’t write actual novel-type writing with plot, character, dialog, etc., then I can and should go ahead and play the game of “What happens next?” “What happens next?” is the question I always end up asking myself when the story grinds to a halt, like it has now with “Whip It.” For instance…
Lucy Cheeks, chef and would-be caterer, is in the middle of a health inspection which she must pass prior to getting the go-ahead to run her catering business. However, her assistant chef, Eduardo Suave – a deeply spiritual but very odd man who looks like the love child of Antonia Banderas and Freddie Mercury – was in the yard behind her kitchen doing nude yoga and he comes back inside, still naked, much to the surprise of the health inspector. What happens next?
I don’t have to write the story to answer it. I can just write notes to myself to keep the ideas flowing. So my answer might go something like this.
Eduardo and the health inspector, Imelda Blanc, have some history between them that Lucy doesn’t know about. In fact, what Lucy doesn’t know is that Imelda was one time Eduardo’s lover and dominatrix. She knows all about his nude yoga habit, and is not surprised to seem him roaming around nude in the kitchen. However, Eduardo is a very hairy man, and as a health inspector, she is concerned that some of his body hair might fall into any food they make. For this reason, she insists that Eduardo cannot be naked in the kitchen. He protests, and Lucy fears she’s going to lose her permit over this when her great aunt Bernice speaks up and says…
So that’s how “What happens next?” works. I just keep plugging away at the ideas, throwing writerly style to the wind. Basically, I’m outlining right there in the body of the story. In fact, once I hit my final word count, I’ll probably lift the entire “What happens next?” stuff out of the story document and save it as it’s own file, then continue to work on it and get all my plot points settled and all my research handled before I go back to the actual writing.
See? Word count keeps growing and those pesky outline and research problems eventually get solved.
One more week left in PerNoFiMo. To everyone out there plugging away at NaNoWriMo, I wish you all the best during these final days!