Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mid-week NaNoPost

It's a little more than a third of the way toward the NaNoWriMo deadline of November 30th, and if life hasn't interfered in some fashion, I imagine most of you have kept at it. You've probably encountered a few bumps over the last ten days, so it may not feel as exciting or fun as it did when you started out, but you're also learning from it. Success is a lovely thing, but adversity is a better teacher.

Some of the lessons you may have encountered since our last NaNoCheck:

Characters: Your cast seems to have turned into a collection of giant sloths who only want to stand or sit around talking to each other.

Details: You can't remember her exact hair color, his exact eye color, or you're afraid you switched them and she now has green hair and he has red eyes.

You're sick of using said, so you're trying to mix up the dialogue tags. But you don't want to use anything else but said. But you're tired of said. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Jumping the Gun: Three more words: Premature sex scene.

Modifiers: -ly adverbs keep coming out of nowhere like barnacles to latch onto your verbs.

Repetition: The eye references are multiplying like tribbles.

Ugh Factors: Your protagonist is starting to remind you of that bitchy unmarried relation you avoid at all the family reunions, and the antagonist is beginning to behave exactly like your ex right before you started looking at rentals and stowing away money for the lawyer.

Wishy-Washy Watercolor Memories: You never used to write like this.

Work? Who knew it was going to be work, hard work, very hard work, and why didn't anyone tell you in advance?

Youch: They should call it National Novelist Torture Month.

There are ways to cope. You can skip along, you can trudge on, you can start over (50K/19 days = 2631.5 words per day), you can quit or you can pick it up from here.

Characters: To handle any slothlike creatures populating your story, think through your next scene before you write it. Use the situation and the setting actively to engage the characters in accompanying, scene-appropriate action during any conversation.

Details: When in hair, eye, or skin color doubt, check your character worksheet. Or stop describing what color they are.

Dialogue: Make peace with said. Employ it frugally. Obsessing over varying dialogue tags can and will suck the joy out of your scene. And when possible, resist the retorteds, reproveds, reiterateds and any other dialogue tag that has not been in active use since the eighteenth century.

Jumping the Gun: Think of sex scenes like sword fighting scenes. They should take place at logical and justifiable moments.

Modifiers: -ly adverbs are not the enemy. Nor are they your friend. Allow yourself one or two per page maximum, and instead use action to modify dialogue.

Repetition: Your characters have many other interesting body parts; don't ignore them all for the peepers.

Ugh Factors: Protags and Antags who start to morph into family or ex-family members are getting away from you. Go back to your outline or character worksheets and renew your acquaintance with the original characters before you write them into a scene.

Wishy-Washy Watercolor Memories: What you wrote in the past was then, what you write now is now. Stop thinking about how well or poorly you're writing and just write. You can edit brilliantly later.

Work!: Writing is work, or they wouldn't pay for it. You're earning your future keep.

Youch: I have it on good authority that National Novel Torture Month will be next July, or whenever Alison Kent gets tired of making Sven sweat, whichever comes first.

The phase of writing you're moving into demands three P's from the writer: patience, perseverance, and problem-solving. It's where we as storytellers pay our dues so we can make it to the home stretch. Don't beat yourself up over what you haven't done or what you won't do, focus on what you're doing. Write today, in this day, and let the rest fall away (don't worry, it'll be waiting there to jump you next time.)


  1. Patience, perseverance, problem-solving. Gotcha. Plus, action tags are my friend. *g*

  2. I love reading your PBW stories. The look int your daily NaNo writing is enlightening. Thanks for all of the practical hints and suggestions.

    Wordless Wednesday

  3. This is a good list of fixes! Sometimes during NaNo it's difficult to keep anything in mind beyond the wordcout, but these are great. Thanks.

  4. I liked this advice even though I'm not doing Nano. It could pretty much apply to fiction writing at any pace.

  5. Stop thinking about how well or poorly you're writing and just write. You can edit brilliantly later.


  6. Very helpful. My people have been standing around talking for the last two chapters. They need something to happen.

  7. Problem solving? Yes, I need that and some more problems and conflicts.

    Thanks for the advice.

  8. Ugh, I'm guilty of the repetition thing right now. So much looking and glancing and expressions in the eyes. To a much lesser extent, I'm guilty of making the characters into sloths as well. I've just been noting down points in the story where I notice this happening, with the intent of fixing it later. Thank God for rewrites.

  9. Good stuff, all of it,... even though I'm not doing NaNo this year. I wrote a 60,000 word novel in 45 days, from the last week of last August through the middle of October.

    As a means of taking a break from the novel, I'm now working on a short story. I finished the outline for it last night (took four days to think through and write), and tonight I will start writing the first draft.

  10. I needed to hear this, thank you so much for posting this! I have gotten to the point where I have started to do a few of these's nice to see advice on how to fix it! Oh, and premature sex scene? You caught me just in time! I was right about to start one today. Even though I think my character's would have a good reason for it I honestly think it would only make things worse at this point. Or is that a good thing?
    You are an inspiration for me and you have kept me going with Nano even when I thought of quitting. So I just wanted to say thank you!

  11. Anonymous7:17 PM

    Wow! Four out of five doctors have diagnosed my draft with eight out of ten of the symptoms. (Are you reading over my shoulder? Why am I obsessed with eyeballs??)
    Thanks for the smile and pep-talk.
    *Thinks she should be able to use word-verification prompt "matenic" for something... but has nothing. Giving it to anyone else who wants it."

  12. Repetition: The eye references are multiplying like tribbles.

    ROFL!!! But...but...I have wanted a tribble almost all my life!


    fine, no more eyes...