Friday, November 15, 2013

NaNoWriMo Recap: The Desolation of Week Two

Throughout the month of November, I will be blogging on my progress, both as a motivation to stick with it and as a way for those unfamiliar with the event to get an idea of what the experience can be like.  Also: writing craziness, random daydreams, tips, cheats, and caffeine abuse.
Best advice you will ever get from a shapeshifting cartoon dog

For the two of you who are going to read this:  Welcome to the end of Week Two!  It only gets better - or worse - from here!  How's that for unhelpful?

Traditionally, Week Two is when many WriMos run out of enthusiasm and have to start pushing through their novels on willpower alone.  The idea that was started last week and seemed so promising is now starting to rust and fall apart before your eyes as you write it.  The characters who walked into your head almost fully formed, with profound emotional depth and complex motivations, have become walking stick figures, mere puppets who are all starting to sound alike.  The plot?  Two things are happening:  either A) it's going absolutely nowhere and your cardboard stock characters are just having "as you know, Bob" conversations like NPCs in a video game, or B) it has completely derailed and makes about as much sense as a frying pan made of out of Jello.

Achieving your threshold word count is like pulling teeth - your own teeth.  Using chopsticks. Made of string cheese.

Needless to say, it can be a rough week.  A lot of people seem to give up somewhere around Day 9 or 10, and who can blame them? 

Here's the part where I make everyone who reads this (all two of you) hate me:
I have never had a problem with Week Two.  In four years of doing this, I have never fallen behind in Week Two because of writer's block.  In fact, I had a bang-up weekend last weekend and not only caught up, but banked a huge surplus of words which has only grown day by day as the week went on.  I could stop writing for five days and still have extra words.

I would say "I'm sorry" for those who are struggling, but that would be disingenuous.  I'm not sorry at all!  HA HA!  I'm thrilled! 

But enough bragging.

For those of you who are struggling, think of this like the marathon runner's "wall."  Keep pushing through and eventually your grasp on your story will come back.  You'll reconnect with a character, a plot line, or a really great twist - maybe all three.  It might not be the prettiest thing, but you'll get to 50,000 words if you stick with it.  And getting to that finish line feels AWESOME.  Allow yourself to write complete crap (which you can improve later when time isn't a constraint) and you will find yourself writing better anyway. 

I think my favorite writing quote is (attributed to various people in various versions), "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."  This needs to become your mantra for the month.  You don't have to write, but you can't go on Facebook or Tumblr or Tickld.  You can stare at Word (or whatever word processing software you've chosen) or you can type.  For your Luddites, you can sit staring at a blank piece of paper and twiddle your pen.  Eventually your brain will un-constipate itself in a often-time messy rush of word-diarrhea and you'll get back on track.

Hang in there!

For those who are rolling right through, don't get cocky yet.  Bank as many words as you possibly can.  Stockpile those jerks like words are canned goods and you're saving them up for the nuclear apocalypse.
Worst case scenario: you have a cushion to fall back on when your brain (or your muse, if you believe in that sort of thing) decides to go south for the winter.
Best case scenario:  you look like a NaNo rock star and can validate your novel early.  There is still plenty of time for your novel's linearity and internal logic to disintegrate and for your characters to become drooling imbeciles.  It happens to the best of us.

Vague Description of My Plot Progress:  After failing to cut through political gridlock, my protagonist and her friends return to their home to watch everything they value crumble to dust.  Awakening alone - horribly alone - in the custody of her enemy, the heroine is offered a respectable position by a potential ally, though neither the offer nor the ally are really what they seem...

NaNo Memories:  Last year, around Week Three, my story completely derailed.  I lost my touch with the characters and my tough-yet-tender female character became a caricature of the "Strong Female Character" in which authors mistake bitchiness for strength.  The male character became a fawning idiot and the second female lead became as bland as uncooked oatmeal.  I started jumping around in the story chronology, adding scenes or adding rewrites of scenes (while using "strikeout" on the banal crap to maintain my word count) trying to figure out at what point my characters fell into the Swamp of Stupidity.  I mean, this was a story in which there was a demon-possessed, carnivorous castle - so finding the moment of stupidity took some digging.  By the time November 25th rolled around (when you can validate your word count and officially "win" ), I was 200% Done with that novel.  The manuscript currently has far more than 50,000 words but the narrative is still unfinished.  Still irritates me, too.

Last Week's Goal:  I did not use "bloviate" correctly in a sentence yet.  But I have a snip of dialogue written in my constant-companion notebook and I know exactly where I'm going to use it, probably in the next thousand words or so.

Next Week's Goal:  I"m going to go out on a crazy limb and try to get to 50,000 by Sunday night.  It's only about 17,000 words away and as I have no life and no other plans this weekend, it should be doable.  If not Sunday, then by Monday.

Current word count:  ~33,500 out of the recommended 25,000.

Tip for WriMos and Readers:
I read - and took to heart - the advice on this website regarding story structure.  His advice is solid and even has some print-ready worksheets for you to use.  This has made a HUGE difference in how I approached NaNo this year.
Also a good concept to keep in mind when READING or reviewing books.  Want to know why a book is boring you even though you don't know why?  This might help.  It might not, but it certainly can't hurt.

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