Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo tips, day 9

Permission to suck.

Hello, WriMos! I’m writing this for you, but if you’re not a WriMo, you might enjoy this anyway, so feel free to read on because it’s going to be here and you’re probably putting off something that you don’t really want to do anyway.

It’s week 2. I know it, you know it, and it’s difficult. Week 2 is the hardest week of NaNoWriMo. You’re getting into the plot, you know the characters, you’re stressed out, and that pile of dirty clothes on the floor is probably approaching apocalyptic size. If you’re me, you’ve also reached the point where you’re writing on a borrowed computer because yours is broken, and trying to not worry about your wallet, which got stolen.

So trust me on this, however bad you think it’s getting this week, it could get worse.

Do you guys know anything about cartomancy? It’s like tarot, but with normal playing cards. I had to study it for NaNo ’09, in which it was also a method of time travel, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, in Cartomancy, the ten of spades is the worst card in the deck. You’ve hit rock bottom. Everything that could go wrong does. On the other hand, it’s a comfort. When you’ve hit the bottom, you have to go up. Things can’t get worse.

That’s this week. This week is the ten of spades. You’ve got this nice world, and you know the characters, and then you have to stab them with pitchforks and they have to loose their spleens and you have to mess up their lives. This is difficult. This is the part where you’re feeling connected to the characters, and you want to give them a good story, and you realize that the story you’re writing isn’t good enough for your characters.

And now you want to start over. There was that scene back there that you weren’t very happy with, and that scene that directly contradicts what you want to do now, and you don’t really like your main character but hot damn, your villain is awesome and you really want your antihero to be the star of the story. This is the part where things start to get tricky.

So what do you do when your writing feels terrible and you just want to kill all of your characters?

Well, there are a couple of things you can do. Number 1) you can kill all of your characters.

That’s right. I said that. If you really hate everyone, and you don’t know what to do, and you’ve totally written yourself into a corner, you can have your character’s house’s carbon monoxide detector fail and everyone dies. You can do this. This is a totally acceptable option. Where do you go from there? Well, just keep writing. Something will happen.

Option 2, you can do something else. You can kill your main character and make this story be about your antihero and your villain and how they end up almost destroying the world and then having to work together to save it. This is also a totally acceptable option. You can take what you have, and mix it up a little bit, and suddenly your subplot has become your main plot. This is also okay.

Option 3, you can just keep writing. That’s right. Just stick to your story, set a timer, and pound words out of your keyboard until you realize that you do kind of like your main character. You will, eventually, finish.

You cannot stop writing. That is not an option. What you need to do is to stop worrying about that massive pile of laundry, and stop worrying about doing justice to your characters and your world, and just keep writing. Your brain is a powerful thing. It will put the pieces of the story together, and you will have something awesome. Everything makes sense at the end.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Polly's NaNoWriMo Tips, November 6, 2011

As November approaches its 6th day, I feel like a few of you may be needing a pep talk or something. I know I do, and this is my 4th WriMo. So yeah, maybe I’m giving myself a pep talk. Shut up. I totally can do that. Sometimes you totally need that.

By day 6, you’re probably getting over the “This will be super fun!” stage of NaNo, and you’re getting into Week Two.

Week Two is a scary thing. During Week Two, you take the world that you set up, and you start breaking it. You know who your characters are, and you’re starting to know where your plot is going (or you think you do. You don’t. You never know where your plot is going. Because of that, you cannot loose your plot, it can just take a surprise twist that no one saw coming. And that’s okay).

And because you know what’s going on, you’re going to start having some trouble. I was writing with my MMC for a while (NaNoSpeak Translation: MMC: Main Male Character, though in my case it could also stand for Main Mail Carrier, but I digress) and I realized that he was a total Gary Stu with no character flaws and all in all he was a character that I just wanted to throw off a bus.

So I started giving him some character flaws and after a page I’d taken that too far and he’d crossed the moral event horizon and I felt like there was no saving him. So I mentioned to my friend, who is also a WriMo, and was in the room at the time, that I hated Steve.

And she asked me, why, and I told her.

And she looked at me and said, “Well, he was on drugs. Keep writing.”

That felt pathetic. It felt like a hand-wave of a scene that I really ought to rewrite because it was really bad, but you know what else it was? GLORIOUS. That, my friends, is the Spirit of NaNo right there.

Your plot feels predictable and suddenly you realized that you’re just telling the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in space? Go for it. Keep writing. You just noticed that you’ve copied every third line from Pirates of the Caribbean and your MFC (NaNoSpeak Tranalation: Main Female Character) is just female Jack Sparrow? Keep writing.

The thing that should really hit home this week is that your writing style may be bad, and your plot may be terrible, and you may hate the entire thing and want to start over or go back and fix a scene or realize that something didn’t work. The thing you are going to realize this week is that you cannot write a good novel in the first go.

And you know what? That’s okay.

This month, you are just going to write. You’re going to write a story that makes no sense in parts, where sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing, where you reread it during December and find yourself making notes like “Ebe needs a personality transfusion STAT!” and all of this is okay.

This is very important to understand. Even if you don’t know where your story is taking you, even if you don’t know who your characters are, even if you just realized that that scene you wrote three pages ago was long and boring and pointless, keep going with it.

Here’s another piece of advice: If you had an idea to change something in the past, write the scene you’re on like you’ve already changed it. If you want, take a little sticky note (or use the notes section in Scrivener. Seriously. Scrivener. Use it) and mark down what change you made on which page and stick it on your Wall of Plot and Notes and What Am I Doing. You don’t really need to, though. It’s easy enough to realize what you’re doing when you edit.

So yeah. Your challenge for the week: Just write. Week 2 is hard. Power through it. Most people give up in week 2, but you’re not going to be one of them. You’re going to realize that this takes a lot more time than you thought it would, you’re going to be stressed about a lot of things and forget to do a lot of things, and that’s going to be fine. Every time you have free time, put your fingers to the keys, put your pen to the paper, and just write. Turn off your brain, stop thinking about it, and let your characters take control of the story.

Because you want to know a secret? When you are done with NaNo, and you take that first draft that you just printed out on your work’s laser printer when no one was looking, and you read it, you will realize that it’s really bad. You will also realize that it’s really, REALLY good in ways that you never thought you could do. And you will like it and be proud. And that feeling is worth so much. Really, nothing short of seeing a plane that you designed flying can match that feeling. It is the feeling of creation. It is the feeling of being a novelist! And you can feel it.

Just write.