Wednesday, November 11, 2009
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.
Dialogue: 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.)