As I slowly give up on NaNoWriMo (because when the required daily wordcount quickly approaches 10k, is it really possible I can win this year?), guilt sets in. Guilt for not writing. Guilt for not having enough tenacity to just stick to it. And guilt for once again, failing.

Yesterday, Savannah J. Foley posted an entry on the Sudden Novel Death Syndrome, and two of the reasons she gave are 1) talking too much about the novel and 2) beginning too soon.

1. Some agree with, and some disagree with, the first rule. Thinking about it, however, that just might be the explanation (or part thereof) for me. Talking to too many people about the novel pre-first draft causes an idea to become stale and saps my creative juice. Instead of channeling the pre-writing enthusiasm toward the first draft, I use all of it on telling everybody I meet how awesome my ideas are, and how this novel is going to be the best ever. By the time I actually sit down to write the novel, it’s not very… novel anymore.

Bouncing idea off another writer/reader, however, is a different matter altogether. I still need to find the balance between the two.

2. Beginning too soon has always been a fault of mine. I begin typing the moment I have the beginning, the characters, and some semblance of the central conflict. For some, this might just be enough. Not for me, though, I am beginning to suspect. After writing the first chapter, I would sit back and think to myself, “Soooo… what’s next?” and come up blank. I have important scenes with no thread to tie them together. This thus gives rise to inane scenes with flaccid prose. Which makes me think all my writing is, well, terrible, and that the novel is frankly unsalvageable: no point in even writing it.

Detailed outlines, however, makes me feel as though I have already written the novel, since I already know everything that will happen. There’s no factor of surprise, of wanting to know more.

I wonder: how does everybody approach planning a novel? Do you do a detailed outline, or do you just write and see where that takes you, or a blend of the two?

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