Like untold thousands of others, I spent the last thirty days taking part in National Novel Writing Month, also known by its tongue-twisting acronym NaNoWriMo. The objective of NaNoWriMo is to write a rough draft of a novel in thirty days, but I bent the rules and worked on the script for the third episode of This is Not Conspiracy Theory. You can see all my updates on Twitter. Here's how it went.
I began on Day 1 with the research mostly complete, and I had a good amount of raw, written material. The ingredients looked promising, but it was a sprawling, incoherent mess and way too long – over 4000 words, and my goal per episode is around 2500.
Initially I focused on taming the mess – getting rid of the junk, trimming the branches that couldn't lead anywhere, moving some bits to future episodes, and adding some order. It was fairly tedious labor.
After about a week of that I started to focus more on solidifying the outline. The quantity of material was too large for me to keep in my head, so I generated a couple mind maps. Ultimately I settled on the one below, which was generated in Scapple. It's changed since then, but this step really helped me grasp the overall picture.
I was then able to gradually shift my brain to the story level, focusing entirely on the language. I got the word count down to around 2000.
By day 20, the first half of the script was comprehensible but the second half was lagging far behind. I switched focus to the second half and made a lot of improvement, though even now it's not as refined as the first. The text changed in unforeseen ways though, and the structure no longer fit. I started breaking things into chunks and reassembling the composition.
In the final week or so, I was fully down the rabbit hole and writing most of the time. For whatever reason, I switched to printing and marking-up double-sided pages at this point. (They're what you see at the top of this post.) I added a lot of new research to flesh out the text but that material ballooned the word count back up to about 4000.
Things got totally chaotic towards the end, with writing, research, and art direction all blending together. I just kept going and had little context about what was happening, aside from sensing that it was getting better.
In the end, I only kind of accomplished my goal of having a rough draft for December 1st. I have a script that I'm ready to start production on, but it's still too raw to share or start getting notes. I'm going to do two more big writing days, then I'll set the script aside and start making the video. I'll keep pecking away at the script and doing additional research, then in a couple weeks I'll pick the script back up and get the first draft complete.
So NaNoWriMo was a lot of fun for me and it definitely helped motivate me. I'm further along than I would have been without it.
As for Episode Three, as far as I can tell, it's the best thing I've ever written. Whether people will like it or not, I don't know, but I've done my absolute best and I can't wait to share it.
This is a Not a Conspiracy Theory makes a great holiday gift.
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