Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From the NaNoWriMo Trenches

For those of you who are safe at home outside of the literary madness known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, we are in the swing of it here, blasting into the second week of it. 
Today is day number nine.  By midnight, each NaNo’er will have 15,003 words written in our new novels.  Congratulations, NaNo'ers!  
One of the wild phenomena of NaNoWriMo is that week one is Creativity Heaven and week two is the Creative Crash.  Sometimes the weeks are mixed up but this generally how it goes. 
Last year, my first year, I was totally unprepared for this.  Not only didn’t I want to write anything by week two, but when I made myself do it, the words seemed stale and clingy.  My characters whined and my plot fell apart.  And what’s worse, I didn’t care!  LOL!  I did have a NaNo mentor, a great online pal who is a fantastic encourager.  She walked me through my struggles and made me write anyway.  It was in those passages in week two where I had to really deal with my internal editor.  I named her Sophie, while I threw spears at her from the depths of the Amazon.
In NaNo Week Two, Sophie wanted to research my novel.  She didn’t think I could invent a believable world on my own so she insisted that I check every detail out on the internet.  I almost fell for that fast one!  I reminded her I couldn’t do any research until week five.  She pouted.  Then Sophie told me my spelling and punctuation was off and my grammar was quite lacking.  My wonderful NaNo mentor told me none of that mattered until December 1st, thank goodness.  Sophie pitched a fit!
Finally, I told dear little Sophie that she had to be quiet while I wrote for four whole weeks.  If she was a good girl and kept her opinions to herself about plot, characterization, pacing and all the other great writing stuff that goes into seminars and classes, then come December, January, February, etc.  she could hack my NaNo novel to bits.  I’m not sure she believed me but nonetheless I enticed her with chocolate ice cream and tricked her into the freezer where she was forced to zip her lips and chill. 
Lo and behold, in December when I let her out, she went to town poring through the internet to make sure I had my facts straight in the book.  What did she find?  Not only that I had my ducks in a row, but I had included some things that very few people know about the location I was writing about. See what happens when you let your imagination wander?  Mine traveled all the way to Brazil and came home with quite a lot of good stuff and if none of it was accurate, who’s to say I couldn’t invent something new in the jungle?
Sophie was happy fixing all the spelling errors and prettying the punctuation when November was over.  She even got to rewrite a few chapters.  But the point is, Sophie, and your internal editor will try to tell you this week that you don’t know what you’re doing.  They’re right!  You don’t know what you’re doing, other than writing a novel.  And your internal editor can fix it all later.  Banish him/her to the freezer and just have fun writing!  No editing allowed, which means no deleting either.
And guess what?  It was those days that Sophie protested the loudest that ended up being the best writing.  Sophie is a bit bratty, did I tell you that?  She’ll do anything to edit before her it’s her turn.
Incidentally, I’m playing with the word count this year.  We all need to write 1667 words per day to have 50,000 words by midnight November 30th.  I’ve decided to write 2500 words per day to give me 75,000 words by then.  I figure it’s not too much extra work to throw in another thousand words per day.  This way the first draft will be finished and waiting for edits in January. 
So if you’re hitting the doldrums and thinking everything you’re writing right now is the pits, just banish your internal editor to the freezer, dungeon, chained box at the bottom of the ocean, tie him or her up on the mast of the pirate ship, whatever, until you’re done.  Your novel will love you for it.  And you’ll enjoy your freedom.  Your internal editor, umm, not so much.  Sophie’s been a good girl this year.  Oh, she’s champing at the bit to edit but she does know she can do that soon, IF she’ll give me time to create.  She’s biting her fingernails in the freezer and gorging on fudgsicles.  I’m enjoying hot chocolate in the living room and not missing her much.  Shhh, don’t tell her I said that! 
And for the record, NaNo life is very crazy.  The other night I remembered at 11:00 p.m. that I had to get my word count in.  I was exhausted but I opened my laptop and began typing away.  I dozed off a few times.  Seriously.  At one point, I woke up with my finger on some key and realized the entire screen was blank.  I had to hit the undo button to get my word count back!  By 11:57 I had 2775 words.  I’m not sure how that happened since that’s typing about 45 wpm and I fell asleep a few times… but if you have a day, er, night like that, join the rest of us...  NaNo is the most fun and crazy work, but it is work, sometimes falling-asleep-on-your-keyboard work and I-can’t-believe-I-forgot-till-the-last-minute work.
While you're filling out your author and novel info on your NaNoWriMo page, check out your NaNo stats page.  It will tell you how many words per day you need to finish on November 30th and a lot of other fun numbers.  Very cool.  This is especially useful if you’ve fallen behind in your word count.  Don’t forget, even if you don’t reach 50,000 words by December 1st, you still have lots of great material to work with so don’t give up!
If you have a NaNo Trench Tip you’d like to share, please post in the comments.  We need all the encouragement we can get as we continue on this amazing novel adventure. 

Happy NaNo’ing, everyone!

photo credits: morguefile.com


madcapmaggie said...

Karen, this is my first year doing Nano, and boy, am I having some interesting conversations with my Internal Editor. I'm having to bang her over the head to get her to shut up so I can just keep on writing. I'm trying to stay ahead of the word count .. at the moment, I have over 19,000 words -- and I just outlined about four more chapters. I keep telling IE, who is saying "that's dumb" about my plot, to shut up.

Karen McGrath said...

Oh Maggie, you are doing so well! And outlining chapters? I will try that!

It's amazing how loud IE's can scream and they'll rewrite the whole thing if you let them and make you start all over again... no...! It does get easier, thank God!

Keep up the great work and thanks for the chapter tip!

Moonsanity said...

Wow, what you wrote is so true-- it's Tuesday and I've been having all those same thoughts. Whew...seriously, I was ready to start researching and reading up on grammar and then I read your blog post. I'm zipping my internal editor's mouth and getting back to writing. Thank you:)

M. L. Archer said...

I sat staring at my computer screen for about half an hour today....just staring....I read your post, shot my internal editor and now I'm on the dodge from the law....Well, actually, I finally got something done. Thanks!

Miz Archer

Karen McGrath said...

Enjoy your freedom, Moonsanity!

M. L. Archer said...

I sat staring at my computer for about 30 minutes today....just staring...I read your post, shot my internal editor and now the law is after me.

Actually, I went back and got something done. Great post!

Sunnymay said...

When the hours of writing go by and the page is no longer blank, you can rest knowing the word count made it again. And when you start talking to yourself, be kind, since it's going to probably end up in your novel anyways.

Karen McGrath said...

M.L. Love it! Them IE's need Clint Eastwood to lock 'em up so we all can git to work. ;) Have fun!

laurieboris said...

Hello, all! I've been NaNo-ing for three years and writing long before that...what I do is just write what's in my head. For me, anyway (and everyone has a different writing style) I do my editing and research in December. If I hit a snag in the plot, I jump to another scene, write whatever's in the characters head, anything to get me started again. I also make sure I keep healthy habits....nothing saps your creativity and energy like living on Doritos and Red Bulls. Have fun and keep writing!

Valerie K said...

This is my sixth year of NaNo. I have discovered if I get up early and knock out a thousand words before breakfast, I am in good condition. My Inner Editor doesn't get up that early, it seems :) Most of the time I don't want to either, but it really works. The other thing is if I show up EVERYDAY without fail, it seems to override my Editor. If I lose a day, I start to second guess myself, I get anxious and it gets harder to go back to it. What else? Don't be afraid to write garbage, give your analytical brain the big picture to puzzle, and don't re-read.
Hope this helps!

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

I've stalled on the Dystopian I was so excited about writing for NaNo. I got about 14,000 words into it and the well has run dry. I know where I'm going later in the story, but at this point-nothing. So I've switched to finishing two of my MG series books and that's going great. I'll get back to the Dys, probably just write garbage to get past the hump then hopefully it'll pick back up.
Boy that editor is riding my back, too.

Karen McGrath said...

Hi Laurie, great tip on jumping to another scene, I do that, too! And nutrition, yes, or rather good nutrition, so helpful, thanks for the reminder!

Karen McGrath said...

Valerie, yes! I've been doing it at night after all my other responsibilities are cared for, so it's like a treat at the end of the day. But...I'm tired by then. I'm changing strategy now!

Karen McGrath said...

Rebecca, I sure have my garbage days... Last year I had far too many of them. I've found that even though I hate what I've written then, I can fix it in December/January, etc. and it's still workable material. Premise wise, if not word wise, lol! ;)