In a book that I own, one of the NaNoWriMo books that seem to have multiplied in recent years, the author allows for some time spent planning before the crush of writing begins–but he recommends no more than one week. His is not the first opinion I’ve seen that encourages a limited amount of time spent not-writing, the general idea being that if you plan long enough, there will never be a book, because you’ll get caught up trying to perfect something that doesn’t exist yet, or you’ll obsess all the life out of your idea.
I can personally agree with this assessment, as the book I want to write has been in the “planning” stage for more than a decade without being written. Therefore, this time I’m giving myself that standard week. Until June 25, I’m simply gathering files and character information and trying to make them usable for when the week begins. While I did some writing on this story originally, and I’ve tried to start from the beginning at least twice in the years since, mostly I just have a ton of thoughts on what it could or should be. This poses a bit of a challenge because many of my ideas went through revisions, so my collected notes now contradict each other or are difficult to follow. One lists a main character as “Dee.” I don’t remember this name variation, and it was so brief that it only exists on one note, as opposed to other discarded names for the same character like “Ana” and “Lea.” At this point, I’m not even sure where it came from. Because my notation consistency was so spotty, it shall remain forever a mystery.
The length of time I’ve spent exploring the possibilities also poses technical problems. In going through old discs, I’ve found seven files, likely the original set from the story’s conception. They are Microsoft Works files, though, which means that my Windows 7 PC can’t read them. (I remember fondly the halcyon days of Microsoft Works, when I thought “handwriting” fonts were the most important part of any story.) I’ll be trying some workarounds this week to render them readable, but it’s still pretty funny that the first draft of my story may exist in digital format–I just wrote it so long ago that it no longer exists according to my computer.
Another interesting part of the note-gathering process: there are key story ideas that I have no memory of creating or recording. I recently discovered a note about a character trait and important scene, both written out in my hand, that I did not remember adding to the story. I never referenced them again, so I must have forgotten or lost the note after writing it. Either way, getting organized before I start writing has turned out to be more helpful than I expected! I hope for more exciting discoveries as I head toward my planning week.
EDITED TO ADD: It turned out that opening my .wps files was shamingly simpler than I expected. I was able to successfully replace them with updated Microsoft Word versions. Among them was an entire plot breakdown as I originally conceived it, and a 24-page document filled with scenes and dialogue from various parts of the story. As I didn’t have any of this before, it has been a very good recovery day. 🙂