I'd been thinking about doing Nanowrimo in an effort to finish Sign & Sacrifice, the Nanonovel I started in 2007. I wrote 50,000 words on it then, but in the intervening three years it really hasn't gone anywhere, despite some faltering efforts. I was commenting to terrycloth that I feel like my work ethic died at the end of 2006 and everything since then has been fitiful and incomplete. I would like to finish something again. It'd be nice.
I was looking back at old journal entries, and noticed that one of my ways of tackling Prophecy had been to divide up the remainder of my outline (Prophecy had an outline! That I mostly followed, even) into bite-sized chunks of plot points, and then said "Okay, I'm going to finish two plot-points a week until this is done." The advantage to this over word count quotas was that it was no longer enough to just write whatever: I needed to actually move the plot forward. Sometimes I feel like I have an irrational fear of advancing the plot. I definitely have a strong tendency towards long-windedness, which the Nanowrimo format only encourages.
So, what the heck, I'm going to try this again. At the start of November, I'll spend four or five days hammering out an actual plot outline for the story. I have been reluctant to do this because Prophecy had an outline and I hated writing Prophecy, and Silver Scales didn't and I enjoyed writing it. However, at some point I need to stop assuming that everything I did on Prophecy was therefore necessarily bad and everything on Scales necessarily right, forevermore. Especially since, hey, three years of nothing suggests whatever my current method is, it's not working. (Life is complicated. I don't think I'm going to figure it out before I die of old age, unless medical science cures old age in my lifetime.)
Once I've figured out what's left that needs to get written, I will divvy it up into nice bite-sized chunks, figure out how many of those pieces I need to write per day in order to finish by the end of November, and then try to do so. Having plot-nuggets to finish should help me stay on track and keep me from feeling overwhelmed by the amorphous looming mass of Unknown Stuff Still to Come. And maybe assigning days to the task of plotting will remind me that Plotting Is Work and Counts. Since I don't think I am really convinced of that yet.
This correlates with another problem that I have with writing, and with measuring progress on a book. When you set up a measurement, you tend to get more of whatever it is that you're measuring. So if you measure time, you spend more time on it; if you measure words, you'll write more words. But neither of these measures what I really want to know, which is "is the book good?" and "how much is left to do before it's done?" And that's just for finishing a first draft; I still have no clue on how to tackle editing. Despite having tried. On two different books.
I can't remember how the "progress via plot points" measurement strategy worked on Prophecy; I thought I'd finished that book by switching to an hours-per-week schedule. I probably have it written down somewhere in my journal and could look it up. But even if it was a failure last time, I'm going to try it again anyway. It'll be different from what I've been trying lately, and I'd like a change.