27 November 2005

NaNo Lessons

Wow. It’s over. I wrote ‘THE END’ in big capital letters at the bottom of page 169 today. Weird.

I think it was both easier and harder than the novel I wrote in March. Easier because I didn’t feel like I was the only crazy idiot doing it. I had the forums. I knew I wasn’t the only one suffering the 25-30K Doldrums. I had people cheering me on when it took me ALL DAMN DAY to write the 700 most miserable words of my life – the 700 words between me and 50K.

But it was harder in some ways, too. I actually felt pressured – which is ridiculous – to get to 50K by the 23rd - because that’s how long it took me in March. Stupid. I also felt guilty for being ahead of other people, which was weird. There was also a lot more going on this month: funerals, holidays and, oh yes, let’s not forget the fucking grant deadline that so very conveniently got moved to the middle of the month.

I learned an awful lot, though. Here’s a few of the lessons I’m taking away this time:

1) Outlines are useless. Well, not useless. But certain characters just exist to fuck with them. The fact that the characters almost always know exactly what they’re doing is very little comfort. In the end, I think I came to realize that outlines are just that – outlines. You may be able to force your characters to respect their borders, but other than that, it’s best to just let the details fall where they may.

2) Never give a character a name that starts with “L”. They are bound to become major trouble makers intent on hijacking your plot and adding bits and pieces of back story you neither need nor want – to say nothing of screwing with your outline left and right. (Lars, Leo – I’m talking to the two of you.)

3) With practice, you really CAN send your Inner Editor off to Hawaii for a month. She won’t die. She won’t even atrophy. She’ll just come back all slim and bronzed from her days on the beach. And raring to sink her gnashy teeth into whatever manuscript she's been banished from all month long. It's kinda great. Except that I wish she'd calm down, 'cuz I really just want to let it sit and not do anything at all to it for a month or so. (I'm appeasing her by letting her make notes about what we WILL do to it, come January.)

4) Writing Angry Letters to your characters is a great tool. I wrote DOZENS. Most of them I didn’t even post in the forums, because honestly, I was embarrassed to have written so many. But they were very therapeutic on many levels. First, cussing out uncooperative characters makes you feel a lot better about the problems you’re having with them. Second, I would very often discover things and/or work out said problems in the course of my rantings and ravings. Third and last, I think they helped keep the Inner Editor in Hawaii. She was appeased by having SOMETHING to edit, something that she could ‘make perfect’ before showing to the world.

All for now. I’m off to bed. To read something that somebody else wrote for a change!