Thursday, November 5, 2009

I See Said the Blind Man As He Picked Up the Hammer and Saw...

So, I didn’t think I would be doing any blog posting, well, maybe ever again. I keep forgetting about this thing. And I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing it during NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated (perhaps the one out of my three regular blog readers who isn’t a writer), it is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. (See for more information.)

This is my first year doing it. I’ve been meaning to do it for a couple of years, but I kept not remembering it existed until the middle of November. This year, I remembered in mid-October.

Anyway, the NaNoWriMo guidelines suggest that you do not pick up on a work in progress for this exercise. They are guidelines, not rules, because NaNoWriMo leads to nothing more than one's own satisfaction. It's not a contest, there are no prizes. It's more like a playgroup. A toddler playgroup: You sign on to play with your fellow writers, but you all play next to one another, independently, not cooperatively.

They explain their reasoning for not doing a work in progress, and I read that last month, and I ignored it. I decided to pick up on my Sophie and Marty thing (which, from this day forward shall be designated “MO” for magnum opus). I have about 120 pages of that story, and I love that story—though I keep getting bogged down in it—so I thought NaNoWriMo might be a good way to blow through the rest of the draft.

But: No. It appears that those folks know more than I do, which I really hate. They said that it’s too hard to get that word count when it’s a work in progress. (To get to 50,000 words in a month, you must average 1667 words per day. That is just over 6 pages of text PER DAY, which is no problem if you have no need to eat, sleep, earn a living, or goof off on Facebook.) The NaNoWriMo folks said you know your characters already, you are attached to them, you have something of an endpoint in mind, and you cannot really free yourself creatively, to just put one keystroke down after another, and get those numbers.

They are correct.

But, I’d been thinking a lot about the MO, and I'd just worked my way through a plot problem, and so I started the first day with a killer scene. Not literally, not the killer. A really great scene, I mean. But I realized, second and third days, that I just wasn’t going to be able to put up the numbers I needed on this project. It’s literary. It's too big, and yet too narrow, to just pound away on. I need more creative elbow room.

So, last night I started something brand new, with a minor character that I borrowed from yet another work in progress. I picked her up and I plunked her down three decades earlier and about 3000 miles east of where she was before. Now, obviously she is going to be different in this new time and place. But she was a minor character anyway, it’s not like I knew her that well to begin with.

I don’t want to say much more than that about it. I’m one of those people who can talk myself right out of a story. And I have an idea where this might end up, publication-ally. It is essentially a new challenge, one I thought of and accepted (in my own head) about two days ago.

One interesting thing about this is that the NaNo file is now schizoid. I’ve already done some bopping back and forth between the two stories. One MO scene, one new thing scene. (I really have to learn how to come up with provisional titles!) There are two stories going on in that Word file, and their only connection is that they are coming out of the same head.

We’ll see. I have no idea where I will be with this on November 30. But I am enjoying the freedom of the new story tremendously. And I believe what Jasper Fforde said in the pep-email he sent to NaNoers yesterday: You may end up throwing out these 50,000 words, but you will have learned something critical in the process, and you will be a better writer for it, and you will never regret the exercise.

And I’m happy to have finally joined in the true spirit of NaNo, the way it’s supposed to be done. AND I got a blog post out of it. Amazing!