Once I have my list of potential NaNoWriMo projects, the hard part begins: there can only be one NaNo and the others will have to go back on the waiting shelf. Elimination isn’t easy because if an idea made it to the list, it has sparked something that I don’t want to let go of. That is why instead of trying to pick my favorite out of the lot, I do rounds of elimination.
Round 1 – Mergers
Though history has shown that the ideas on the list don’t play well with others, my first elimination pass is still to see if some of them could be merged. Sometimes, a random idea for a character goes well with a random idea for a setting and my list is marginally shortened this way. Most idea will make it to the next round, though.
Round 2 – One-Liners
I sit down with my notebook and try to write the premise/one-liner for the ideas. Any idea that fails to deliver is mercilessly cut and a lot of heads roll at this stage. Despite the attraction of the original idea, if I can’t pinpoint a core conflict that makes a good one-liner with a minimum amount of effort, I know that project can’t carry me through November.
Some ideas need a few iterations on that one-liner to get to a satisfying state and that’s okay. A one-liner is rather fast to produce and easily manageable so it’s not too time-consuming or brain-wrecking. This is what that mess looks like:
Round 3 – Analysis
This is where I stop looking at the sheer creative value of the ideas and sit down to weigh the pros and cons of the ones that made it this far. Everything is ground to add or deduct points for the score of these ideas.
Do I have existing writing for it? Is it easy to reuse or more of a “sit down and carefully think through” thing? Does it fit in a current publishing trend? Is it similar to something I’ve done before? What type of challenges do I expect from developing that idea? Etc.
This year, eight ideas made it to round 3 and only four survived it. As I analyzed the other, they turned out to be good material, but not suited for the special brand of crazy that is NaNo.
Round 4 – Public Vote
When I get to this point, I’m unable to trim down the list further by myself. I see the value in each idea and how each of the different challenges could motivate me to write at a finger-breaking pace for a month. It’s time for the ideas to meet the public.
Sometimes, I’ll discuss my ideas over coffee with friends, but since I was far away from my usual writing group this year and didn’t have time to build one in Germany, I decided to enlist the help of the WriMos from Quebec City through the forums. I asked them to vote on their favorite concept based on the following information:
1 – Oracle Warrior (codename)
Premise: Kaerea is destined to die turning the tide of a galactic war, but the people she’s meant to fight for may be the worst enemy.
Elevator Pitch: John Carter of Mars, gender-swapped, featuring a prophetess Cassandra who learned to kick ass.
2 – The One Who Sees
Premise: Lily can’t live with the knowledge that one of her clients will die, so she follows her premonitions in an attempt to save him.
Elevator Pitch: Clary’s personal journey in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, plus a few years, minus some magic and family issues.
3 – Tag, You’re Me!
Premise: Tyrese, a body jumping addict, gets hired to use his unique skill to rescue war hostages (hopefully before he ODs.)
Elevator Pitch: Black Ops hire one of the Misfits (TV show).
4 – The Red Stare
Premise: Amber’s irises have turned bright read, telling everyone that she’ll die within the next year.
Elevator Pitch: A look on people’s relationship with death and grief or Flashforward‘s blank futures as a defining part of society.
Though the NaNo group is a small sample size, it’s good to test the initial appeal of the ideas. Usually, one of them emerges as something that intrigues the majority of voters and while it doesn’t guarantee agents, editors and readers will think the same, it still bodes well for the winner.
And you’ll find out which one won tomorrow. 😉
Do you usually have only one idea for NaNo or several? How do you choose which one you’ll write?