Yesterday I crossed the finish line on my NaNoWriMo novel.
I feel like a rock star.
The office dino’s feeling pretty swanky himself.
Here’s my super cool mocked-up cover.
And now we dance.
I was going to do a Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows Part 1 post today, and then I realized that Thanksgiving is in four days. So instead, I’m doing a hurry-up-and-get-some-writing-done post because I need to get a word count jump before I head into the inevitable food coma, and decorating-fest that usually comprises my Thanksgiving weekend.
And I suggest that you do as well.
This is the time to push yourself past what you’ve already been doing. The good news is, now that you’re coming to the end, your options have considerably narrowed. There are so many possibilities at the beginning, but at the end, there are only a few things your character can do to get that redemption, or foil that villain, or beat that opponent with mere seconds to spare.
This is the most exciting part of the book when the plot moves along at warp speed as everything comes to a head. If you’ve done your job, many things are hanging in the balance and all you have to do is weave their solutions into the Exciting! Earth-shattering! Stupendous! conclusion.
It’s the most exciting part of the book. So it should be the most exciting to write.
Which means you should be able to get it done quickly, right?
[Image from: http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSQq3SFb2M-x4l8e7cK7KaUwI0klah0g3GSQYfh3Sz2rQZ_ALRA]
My NaNoWriMo novel has taken a turn for the weird. Not bad, just weird. Plus, some main characters are being left out of this huge middle chunk and they’re jumping at the edges of the page shouting, what about me? So I know that when I re-do this draft, Major Reworking will be necessary. I’m not worried. I don’t consider this draft a real one anyway, more like an exploratory draft.
Exploratory draft. Those words take the pressure off of writing. It’s like saying, I’m not trying to hit it out of the park. I’m just trying to get to the park.
Right now, my manuscript resembles those choose your own adventure books with several different avenues for the reader to follow. I pick a track, follow it, and then go back and write another. Later on, I’ll chose which works best. The outline is my anchor. It allows me to go far afield without missing the major plot points. And things are moving forward. I’m actually very interested in what’s going to happen at the end of this thing, and even more interested in which of these little offshoot tracks are going to wind up working out when I get to the real writing of this novel.
Now that I’ve started thinking of this as an exploration, the writing has become more fun.
I wasn’t planning to do another NaNoWriMo post this week, but this is going to be a good ‘un!
It’s week two, so you’re probably sick of your novel right now. It’s not fun anymore and you’re not sure what in the heck you were thinking when you first conceived of it. You’re also not really sure what it’s about.
So it’s a perfect time to go find some things on the internet that relate to your book. That’s called research, and it’s an awesome time-waster… er… inspiration/information-finder.
For example. My WIP features many Caribbean folklore creatures, like soucouyants and douennes, and Mama D’Leau, who is like a mermaid only her bottom half is anaconda, not fish, and her top half, while female, ain’t pretty. Like. At all.
So, I found these images of a fossilized mermaid. It’s so creepy and gross and I love it. Totally what I need to keep in mind as I write about the mermaid hunter in the book. This is precisely the sort of image he’d carry around in a journal.
Then I found these pictures of work by a sculptor who puts his art under water. One of the pictures is of a group of people sculptures beneath the sea in Grenada. They’re creepy and gorgeous and perfect. So perfect in fact, that I mocked up a cover using one of the images.
Hey, if this thing ever gets published, I’m going to ask my editor if they can contact this guy for his images.
And now I’m inspired to get back to work with a few images to keep me on track. Only… I’m not sure I’m satisfied with the font I chose for my mock cover… hmmmm.
It’s the middle of week two and you’re beginning to wonder what the heck you signed up for. You don’t even know what the heck your novel’s about. And you’re starting to resent whoever it was that told you NaNoWriMo was such an awesome idea. In fact, you’ve crossed them off your Christmas card list.
The fact is, if you’re embarking on a completely new story where you barely know the main character, or have any idea about the plot, you’re going to be lost. It’s like dating someone that you just met every single day for a month. It gets a little hairy because you’re not sure what else to say after a week and a half, but it’s too soon to let them know about the ratty bunny that you’ve had since you were three that you still sleep with, because that kind of thing is the little bit of crazy that you only reveal a couple of months in on, say, date number eleven, but it’s only been a week and a half and it’s date number eleven already, and your date has invited themselves over and your ratty bunny is RIGHT THERE IN PLAIN SIGHT.
Lucky for you this isn’t a date. If you reveal your crazy now, nobody’s going to run for cover. So write that crazy thing. Only write it in a different color font. It’ll stand out from the rest of your manuscript as a tangent or new idea, or something that you’re not even sure what it is. Then go back to your regular font color and continue the story. Do this as many times as you need to, using as many different colors as you want.
The point is, you don’t know what’s going to be useful as you go in to do a second draft. Remember, it’s not the writing that’s important, it’s the REwriting. And rewriting involves careful consideration and deep thought, two things that you don’t have time for right now. But you will. Starting next month. So let all those lovely font colors make your ratty bunny stand out.
Ratty bunny is your friend after all.
[Image from: http://www.etsy.com/listing/38652099/bunny-rabbit-stuffed-animal-children You can buy it.]
I don’t know about you, but any time I’m writing a scene with a lot of tension, I type faster. Words fly onto the screen because I’m really invested in what happens next. And this means that the reader will be too.
Donald Maas of the Maas Agency and WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL says that stories should have tension on every page. Your character always needs to be striving for something. That goal needs to be consistently out of their reach, or questionable as to whether they’ll be able to achieve it. This adds interest to your story. But how to accomplish tension is something of a head-scratcher for many newbies. And that brings us to pacing.
I like to describe pacing in terms of musical beats. How many beats does it take for your character to turn around after she sees the bad guy coming? How many beats does it take her to start running, for her breath to become ragged, to turn back and see that he’s chasing her, for her heart to beat faster and louder in her ears, to stumble over that dead branch, regain her footing, reach the gate, and then for his fingers to narrowly miss her as she shuts the gate in his face?
That’s pacing. Describing all of the things that happens before she narrowly escapes, adds tension. I could have just as easily written, Gabby saw Mikel in the distance. She began to run. He started to chase her. But she made it to the gate on time, and he just missed catching her. But that’s not as interesting as taking the time to draw out the tension by describing every single thing that happens between the moment she sees him and the moment his hands reach out.
To have effective tension, you have to have effective pacing.
Readers come for the tension, so give it to them. It’ll make your story better and your writing faster. It’s a win-win.
The nice thing about doing NaNoWriMo is that it’s a community. It’s set up to make the lonely task of writing less solitary. So if you have some Nano writer buddies, today’s a good time to check in with them, send some nano mail, and give some words of encouragement, pats on the back, and general hellos. It’s nice to have writer friends isn’t it? They understand the frustrations of creating entire worlds from thin air and the pleasures of finding that those worlds are actually pretty great.
Besides, knowing that you have comrades out there who are going through the same thing that you are, helps you to keep on moving forward with your own work.
The only bad thing about sending nano mail is that those words don’t count toward your 50k goal!
It’s day 4 and the writing’s good. If my Nano writer buddies are any indication, everyone’s still slightly ahead of the curve. So today’s a good day to shore up some structure. No, don’t go rolling your eyes at me. You don’t want to get to day 30 and realize that your story has no backbone, do you? Then listen up.
At this stage in the piece, you’re still in PART ONE, in which the main character’s life was going along just fine, until the event occurred that changed everything, or the person arrived that changed everything. That’s THE CATALYST. So you’ve been writing about THE CATALYST and how your character is dealing with said CATALYST. Now here’s the Very Important Plot/Structure part: your character has to do something (ACTION) that a) moves the story forward, and b) reveals something about their personality and their personal GOALS. Your character’s goals will probably change as the story goes along, but for now, you’re dealing with the current goal.
Is the GOAL to avoid conflict? Confront it? Beat it down with a stick? That all comes back to their personality. And your character’s personality will drive their action. And their action will move the plot forward and take you to PART TWO, where the main character actively participates in trying to circumvent/solve/defeat/rectify whatever the CATALYST brought.
So, to sum up you have:
THE CATALYST (the thing that happens or the person that comes along)
THE GOAL (what your main character wants)
THE ACTION (the thing your main character does in response to the catalyst, that also aligns with her current goals)
As the days go by, you may find yourself getting more and more sluggish with your writing. A good method for keeping up the momentum is going back to the previous day’s work (or several days) and re-reading it. It’s another method I’ve picked up from the immortal Hemingway. This may put you in dangerous territory. Your inner editor might switch on during a re-read, so you have to be careful. As a fellow NaNoWriMo-er wrote yesterday, it’s not NaNoRewriMo. You don’t have time to re-write.
I don’t suggest smothering your inner editor. You’ll need her/him later, and it’s not good to squash your own instincts. What I suggest, is you make a few notes of the things you want to take a closer look at, or change later. The operative word being later. This way you satisfy the editor but don’t get bogged down in a wholesale edit at this early stage.
As soon as you finish the re-read, get going on meeting the day’s word count.
PART 2 (in which I get geeked out over physics)
In physics, momentum (p) depends on mass (m) and velocity (v). So the formula for momentum is this: . And if you’re still reading this, here’s an illustration of Newton’s apple in Einstein’s elevator showing the relative perception of momentum for persons A and B. Courtesy Wikipedia.
I’m sure your day 1 total rocks. Mine’s 1829. Not impressive? Maybe not… yet.
After I hit the requisite 1667 yesterday, I kept going only until I came to the next transition. I knew what was going to happen next, but I decided not to write it. I wanted to wait. It’s the whole stop while the going’s good thing. A little trick I learned from a guy named Hemingway. Heard of him?
This year I decided on applying some strategy. And it’s simple. I’m pacing myself. There’s a reason the fabled tortoise ends up the victor, and not the hare. What I learned from last year’s NaNoWriMo (in addition to the fact that it pays to outline) is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So pacing yourself might help to stave off the dreaded Wall. Last November I hit the wall somewhere around week 3 and didn’t think I’d make it to the end. I got a second wind, but it was really close.
Of course not writing ahead when the going’s good means that if for some reason I can’t write for a couple of days, I’m going to be behind, but I’m willing to risk it. What’s life without a little risk?
So, are you going to pace yourself, or are you going to run this thing flat out?