Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A NaNoWriMo Pep Talk From Your Trusty ML

It’s the final stretch. Where are you, WriMo?
Are you 5k away, marching confidently toward that finish line?
Have you just dragged yourself across 25k?
Are you despairing with so many back at 10k?
Does it seem impossible?
Regardless of where you stand today, humor me. Root around in this holiday-infested week and find some AIC (arse in chair) time. I don’t care if you stopped back on November 2nd, or if you were, just this morning, pounding out your 1667. Get ready to plop your cheeks and tap your fingers.
You may notice that my word count blows right now. I’m not going to hit 50k this year. I’m 100% okay with that. You know why? The book I’ve worked on for the last FOUR Novembers is months shy of agent submission. Editing that has sucked up every last ounce of my attention, and it’s a wonderful, exciting flurry. But I never would have gotten here without those Novembers. So if you *don’t* have a finished book, if you’re NOT 100% okay with letting this month fizzle away (and returning next year!), then stay tuned.
I want to tell you a story about the final week of NaNo last year, and how it changed the course of my now-complete manuscript.
About this time one year ago, I sat down completely aware that Thanksgiving was about to wreck my progress and threaten my productivity. I decided to write TEN THOUSAND WORDS in one day.
That is NOT an easy feat, in case you wondered. One fifth of a NaNo.
I think I actually ended up somewhere near 8k. That didn’t matter. It wasn’t about the number. It was about writing MORE THAN I EVEN COULD in one sitting.
At first, things were pretty normal. My characters followed my plan. I would pause and think (quickly) ahead, and send my characters where I planned. But eventually, I couldn’t think anymore. I couldn’t figure out where to take them. I wanted to quit. I’d hit 3k. I thought…that’s better than a daily goal. I could try again tomorrow. And then I got annoyed. My GOAL was 10k. I wasn’t even halfway. Surely I could get SOMETHING on the page.
That’s when the Bathhouse Debacle happened. Two of my characters, stark naked, met in a bathhouse. Argument ensued. Fighting. Death. The dialogue was AWFUL. The description was CHEESY. The whole thing was HILARIOUSLY wrong. Worse than bad fan fiction. I didn’t even know these people anymore. I almost quit again. Part of me was worried that I would never look at those characters the same. “What is real?” my existential self wondered. “Did I just make that happen? Can I take it back?”
But I was only at 5k. So I kept going.
The characters did things that 1) I NEVER expected and 2) I knew could NEVER remain in the final draft. That might scream “waste of space” to you. It did to me. But I was determined to finish, so I pressed on. Something fascinating happened. AFTER the characters calmed down and put their clothes back on (and after one came back from the dead, because he certainly wasn’t going to die in a bathhouse brawl), they reached a point in the plot that I’d never thought of, that made SO MUCH MORE SENSE than what I had planned. Later, I deleted the horrible bathhouse scene. I replaced it with completely unrelated story that brought my characters from where they were to where they’d ended up. And it WORKED.
The end of that 8k day remains in my finished product today. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I never would have thought of that plot point if I’d never written the Condemned Bathhouse Scene.
So what do I suggest to you?
Set an unrealistic goal.
Run at it with complete abandon. Do not think. Do not worry. Accept that nothing you write has to remain. Allow that some of it might.
Isn’t that the whole point of NaNo? There are only five days left. USE them!
Much love,

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