Sunday, November 9, 2008

[NaNoWriMo] Week Two pep talk from Chris

from my email:-

Dear NaNoWriMo author,

I am writing with excellent news.

The high-speed noveling deities have seen fit to bless us with five whole weekends in November. This hasn't happened since 2003, and the fact that we have three more weekends ahead of us pretty much guarantees that each and every one of us will coast to an easy NaNoWriMo victory. But even in cakewalk years like 2008 (ahem), it's sometimes nice to have short-term goals. So here's my idea: What if we all plan on getting at least 15,000 words by this Monday before we go to bed? That's slightly behind pace, but if we can pull it off, we'll levitate up into an important new stage of the noveling journey.

That stage is called Plot.

Week One of NaNoWriMo tends to be all about characters. Our imaginations have been leaving a lot of them on our doorsteps lately, and it’s pretty much all we can do to bring them in, give them names, and teach them the rudiments of steering their battle-yaks. Then our doorbell rings, and we're rushing off to welcome another group of newcomers to the party.

Because of this, the first week of November is largely a matter of crowd control. I love this part of NaNo, because it's hard to mess it up. This phase also contains one of the greatest moments of novel-writing—that point when characters first unstick themselves from the page and begin interacting with the world around them, revealing aspects of their lives and personalities we hadn't known were there.

This is a sweet moment in the noveling adventure, but now it's time to move on. Getting through the next week of NaNoWriMo will require we set our stories in motion by sending some winds of change howling through our characters' lives. The sooner we do this, the better. If you're stuck for story-launching ideas, consider borrowing from the menu of time-tested plot devices: deaths, firings, loves-at-first-sight, siege ladders quietly appearing against ramparts, disappearances, robberies, accidental wealth, plagues, road trips, illnesses, kidnappings, a shortage of gummi bears when there had appeared to be many gummi bears, mysterious letters, shocking discoveries, betrayal, and wiener dogs.

Any of these things will likely alter your characters' lives forever, which is tough for them but a boon for your book. Still, getting up the nerve to foist these game-changing events onto people you just met is a little daunting. It's easy to worry that you'll blow your potential-filled opening with a lame plot that takes your novel in the wrong direction.

Happily, there are no wrong directions in NaNoWriMo. The only bad plot move you can make in the next week is lingering too long at your story's crossroads, vacillating over the right path. Be bold. Plunge in.

And while you're sprinting through the second stage of your novel, know that some winds of change will likely be blowing through your own life as well. Week Two tends to be when the novelty of NaNoWriMo wears off, and the difficulties of making so many tough decisions in such a short time period add up. Enthusiasm dwindles, fatigue rises, and we begin squinting at our manuscripts, thinking, "This derivative pile of crap is my literary statement to the world?"

Everything gets better soon, trust me. You remember that jolt you felt when your characters first spoke up? Keep writing, and it will happen again. But this time, it will be your whole book rising off the page, pulsing with electricity and life. Today's tangents will become tomorrow's arcs, and unforeseen connections will tie up your loose ends in a way that will make you want to slap your head and holler at your accidental brilliance.

So turn off spell-check. Leave those ungainly sentences on the page, and let your punctuation be imperfect. And whatever you do, don't read your previous day's entire output. The next seven days are all about moving forward. Let's focus on hitting our daily word-count goals, and, before we know it, Week Two will be behind us, and the wonders of Week Three will begin.

See you on Monday at 15K!


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