My NaNoWriMo Advice for Success!
So…. How’s That NoWriNaMo Thing Going?
Do you have people in your life who think that writing a novel is just like writing a grocery list, only, you know… more words?
So do I.
NaNoWriMo, Plot, and Plight
When I began my NaNoWriMo project ten days ago, I had already imagined the world of the story, but I was committed to hold my ideas loosely. There were some apparent contradictions, but I had a very basic sense of a beginning, a middle, and an end.
As I’ve written this first NaNoWriMo draft, I’ve had to make specific, seat-of-the-pants choices. Where I had imagined the scenario in broad terms, I’m now writing it moment by moment, in fine detail. My choices are becoming more defined.
But how am I making these choices? Is it all random?
It seems like it sometimes, but there’s nothing really random about the writing process. All my characters revolve around the plight at the center of my story. My characters are all functions of that plight. The plight anchors my story. I continually return to and ponder over it, whether consciously or not.
The plight in the story is universal, we all struggle with it at some level: the problem of free-will and predestination. The story explores the plight of coming to grips with our own responsibility and accountability in the world, despite all the forces ranged against us.
The challenge now is to trust that what feels random is being written for a reason. I may not understand it all right now, but my subconscious has the ability to make connections that my conscious mind doesn’t understand. As I write each day, my trust in that subconscious voice deepens, and a certain knowing develops.
The End of Act One
Up to this point, my primary goal has been to get through to the end of the first act, the moment when my heroine will take action toward achieving her goal.
I was convinced when I started that a certain scene just had to happen. But as I’ve been writing, I’ve discovered that scene just doesn’t want to be written the way I’d imagined it. In fact, it’s almost as if the scene doesn’t want to be written at all.
The control freak in me was gritting his teeth.
But I learned a long time ago to just let go, trust this feeling, and just follow the scene where it wants to go. Under the surface of my idea for the story, my subconscious is looking for the most effective way to find that satisfying resolution. So it’s vital that I continue to not strangle my yet-to-be-born story and stay connected to the underlying forces that drive the writing.
Stories accumulate meaning as they progress. The plot is less important than the story’s underlying meaning. When the characters are allowed to surprise me, that’s when the plot is realized in a more complete—and more surprising—way.
It’s easy to worry about the infinite number of ways I could get the story “wrong.” It feels like walking a tightrope, doesn’t it? One wrong step and—splat!—the story is street pizza.
But if I give into that kind of anxiety, I’ll get lost in my fixed idea of the story and loose my way. I have to remember that the story isn’t living in my head. It comes from somewhere deeper than that. What I want to express is coded into my DNA somewhere, between hazel eyes and a dislike of broccoli. I just need to relax and stay curious, let my story reveal itself to me, and—for Pete’s sake—not strangle it.
The Boggy Middle
Day 10. How’s it going, you say? Well, you can see the progress in the chart at the top of the sidebar. So, really, not so bad. The first few days were rough, but I found a temporary work-space where I can write and do my day job for at least eight mostly uninterrupted hours, and it’s not too far from home, so I also have a few hours in the evening that I can pound away at the keyboard.
And then yesterday (Wednesday, 9 November) sucked. But that’s a whole different matter I won’t get into here.
Thus far, I’ve managed to get back on and then ahead of schedule. I’m averaging 3303 words per day, I’ve put in a total of 29732 words so far, and I have 20268 more words to reach the baseline 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal.
If I keep up this pace, I’ll hit that target by 16 November. Go on, you know you wanna—gimme a “HOO-ah!”
Of course, I set a higher goal than that for myself. My personal NaNoWriMo project goal is 65,000 words. So I’m still some 35268 words from that goal, which breaks down to 1764 words per day from now to the end of November. If I keep up my pace (3303/day), I’ll get to the end of my NaNoWriMo project by 21 November.
Which would be AWESOME! (I have travel plans for Thanksgiving.)
There’s just one niggling little thing between here and there:
The Dreaded Middle
On the heel’s of my heroine’s decision at the end of Act One, she enters a new realm. From here, she goes on to a moment of VICTORY! Except she doesn’t. The hope is false, the victory is hollow. She makes some initial progress toward achieving her story goal, she thinks she’s going to get what she wants, in she’ll find that what she wants doesn’t solve her problem. She still has to find what she needs, she has to give up her own preconceived notions of how this problem can be solved. And so do I. The story’s not going to end the way I imagined it. It’s not going to conform to my idea of the story.
My story is going to be its own thing. But for that to happen, to get through this thirty day challenge with a complete draft at the end, I’m going to have to give up my idea of the story. I’m going to have to give up things like style and grammar and spelling. I’m going to have to give myself permission to surprise myself—and to write badly. Giving myself that permission, being kind to myself, it’s the only way to get down into that deeper place where the story lives and come up with it.
And moments like this are when Hemingway’s advice (and Bluto’s) comes to mind: Write drunk. Edit sober.
Not that I advocate alcoholism as a way of life. But there’s something to be said for a glass of wine or a flask of whiskey when the going gets tough and the tough don’t really want to get going. So raise your glass if you’re with me.