A friend who is also writing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) got in touch on Tuesday with the news 'I have a bad case of the Week Twos'. Week Two is about the time that, whether your novel has been going well up to that point or not, the whole enterprise can look impossible.
You may have fired off the first few chapters of your novel with reckless abandon but now characters are pulling the story in directions you don't want to go (she said that it was turning into a tween romance version of 1984 and she just didn't want to write that book), the plot is swiss-cheesed with holes, and you're probably mired down in a scene where your characters insist on having a long rambling conversation.
It's like a zombie apocalypse only without the excitement.
So now that the rapturous initial spill of words and ideas is churning around into the harder work of building the story and, like superglue, maybe hardening into shapes you don't want. What can you do to rescue your novel-writing mojo?
1. Don't Marry Your Words! Realize that this is your Rough Draft, ideas dancing naked on the page then trying on strange outfits. Everything is subject to the editing process later and even to sweeping revisions but you don't worry about that now. Your brain has to process the ideas somehow and when you're writing so quickly you've got to just let them flow. Hopefully you have a bare framework to arrange the ideas on. I didn't do nearly as much preplanning as I should have for this book but I did manage enough that I have another goal to choose and head for when I need it. I never ever forget, though, that I am not married to the words I'm writing now. I've heard that what you end up with at the end of NaNoWriMo is nothing more than a 50,000 word complex outline. From my experience last year, this is true.
2. Remember That Authors Can Time-Travel. The characters in your book may be bound to a timeline (unless you're writing a freaky time-travel story) but you, the author, are not. You've got the gods-eye view of your timeline and if you are writing a part that does absolutely nothing for your inspiration, if your characters are static and bored don't keep writing at that point in the timeline! Pick up your pen, figure what might happen hours, days, or weeks down the timeline and put your pen down there to begin writing again. This fast-forward can get you out of that quicksand scene that should probably have already ended.
3. Explore the Web. No, not the internet, the web of connections between your characters. Novels are long enough to not only have a plot but also to carry subplots. While you don't want to clutter your story with too many subplots, you might find that if you're stuck for what to write next you can look in on a different character and find out what they're doing and in what way their story intersects or will intersect with the one you're already writing. This year, when I've finished one character's scene and think 'what do I do next?' I figure out which character I haven't written about for a few scenes and go to see what they're doing. To begin with the connections were only that they lived in the same area and knew the same people or were related. Now those connections are helping to weave the plot together...and I always have something to write next.
4. Introduce the Odd Man Out. It's easy to keep creating characters we're comfortable with. When you're stuck, though, sometimes it is due to the fact that all the characters get along and are nodding politely at each other. It may be time to break the mold and bring in a character who is strange, argumentative, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, handicapped, confused, or belligerent. Allowing this character into the mix can stir things up right away, force the other characters to react and that can break that static plot up and get it moving again.
5. Flash Brainstorm. I am very fortunate to have nano buddies who know things that I don't. I'm thankful that Glitch is usually just an IM ping away and he's studied all kinds of interesting things that I need for my novel. He also happens to be the world's nicest guy so when I realize that I need to figure out some more details about the tech in my novel very quickly, he's willing to discuss how things like radio frequencies and encryption keys work. Likewise the NaNoWriMo site has a forum full of people who have learned things that you have not. I saw on the home page where Chris Baty was looking for anyone who could help him with what a painter's life is like. Don't go it alone if unknown facts are tripping you up, throw the question out there, brainstorm quickly with a friend, toss those still-gasping facts into your novel and keep going.
...and if all else fails Glitch recommends throwing in an explosion. It's a little dramatic, I admit, but if you're really desperate you could explode something, kill a character, toss an moose through the dining room window. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? In any case, soldier on Wrimos!
Would you believe that some crazy novel writers began their efforts in 'literary abandon' last night at midnight? Some even met up to do it. My tactic was a bit different and I hit the hay early to try and get rid of a persistent headache and to be up bright and early to write.
I don't know about bright but I was up earlier than usual and I did manage to get 1,091 words done (my goal today is 2,000) by 7:10 am when I had to get up and get the family sorted out for school and work.
Once again I am using the Secret Weapon for focusing on my writing: Write or Die (the online version)
Focusing with timed writing I can generally whip 500 words out in 15 minutes which really helps when I need to just get the words down for the day and move on!
Good Luck and happy writing fellow Wrimos!
This is a Wrimo alert! This is not a drill. Hey, just because I happen to stink at thinking ahead doesn't mean that I can't take a hint.
Yesterday on Writing Forums.com someone mentioned getting ready for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) over the summer. That took me off guard because who is thinking about November when it's barely the end of April?
Glitch, that's who. This morning he popped onto IM with some similar thoughts as the person on the forum yesterday regarding plotting ahead for NaNoWriMo.
No Spare Time to Think
One of the main things that I discovered about trying to write 50,000 words in a month is that there is no time to think about background information. I had rudimentary character sketches, a general idea where the story would take place, a handful of plot goals (I'm allergic to outlines) and a heady sense of freedom. Gonna write a novel, nobody to stop me, whoohooo!
It wasn't enough.
Yes, I got 50,000 words pounded out onto the page but I went far afield of what I envisioned the story to be and not in a good way. If I'm going to put my time and energy into this again I'd like to end up with something a lot closer to a manuscript than a wordy, wandering outline, right?
So I know Glitch is brainstorming ideas for his NaNo Novel and I know I will be, too, if I decide to go with it this year. If I do, I want to know my characters and the world cold before November 1st. I want to have any research done, cool tech designed if the book calls for it, and the plot pretty well mapped out.
I still can't say 'outlined' I just can't. Goals, though, yeah. I'll have goals. In order. Sorta.
Any other Wrimos out there? Do you hear the Wrimo alert? Are you brainstorming your novel for November? Comment and share the love! Or the pain...whatever works.