Monday, November 1, 2010

Light posting ahead...

...Larry D. can tell you why.

I've participated in National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, since 2006. Of the four intermediate children's sci-fi manuscripts I've written each year, all reached the 50,000 word mark; one is complete and I hope to publish it someday. (In fact, this year I'm working on a sequel to it.) I have also written three scripts for the companion contest, ScriptFrenzy--but I cheerfully admit to being a terrible scriptwriter and have no intention of ever letting any of those see the light of day. :)

I've learned a lot about the fiction writing process in those years. One thing is that a simple but flexible plot outline beats a complicated but thorough one, every time. Another thing is that a deadline can be your friend: how many of us have said we'd like to write some book or other "someday," but never really imagined the whole first draft coming together in thirty days?

Something else I learned is that I'm not, actually (all evidence to the contrary aside) inexhaustibly loquacious. The second year I was doing NaNo I really struggled to reach the 50,000 word goal, hitting it at the last minute, and I haven't tried to work on that manuscript since. At the time, I blamed my difficulties on the fact that during the last two weeks of November I was also substitute blogging for Rod Dreher for the first time, so that between this blog, Rod's old blog, and the NaNo manuscript I was probably cranking out several thousand words a day by the end of the month.

But I'm not sure if I can really blame writing fatigue for that year's results. The truth is, I didn't much like my main character. She changed her name almost immediately, refused to become the rather silly girl I thought she'd be, kept to herself, was quiet and introspective, and capped it all by utterly refusing to fall in love with the character I'd planned for her to marry, pointing out, instead, his many grave defects and weaknesses of character. Someday, perhaps, I'll try to squeeze a conclusion out of that attempt at a book, but for now I feel about this girl the way you might feel about a rather annoyingly superior acquaintance who has moved away; I'm not altogether eager to spend a lot more time in her company.

And that leads me to the last thing I've learned so far. The National Novel Writing Month people have a saying: "Stifle your inner editor," meaning that if you let a dream of perfection dictate to you what your book should look like, chances are you'll never get around to finishing it. I'd add another saying: "Like your main character(s)." This doesn't mean you can't write dark, complex, angsty characters if you want to--but it does mean that if your dark, complex, angsty character starts to seem melodramatic, whiny, and all too simple to the point where he annoys the heck out of you--chances are it's time to start over. Or rewrite the thing as comedy, whichever works best.

If anyone else who reads this blog is taking part in NaNoWriMo this year--I'm Red Cardigan over there, too. In fact, that's where my nickname comes from! :) See you over there!

I will keep posting here, but it will probably be a lot more sporadic than it has been recently, though I intend to continue the one-post-each-weekday minimum. I enjoy my readers and this blog too much to let it go into a complete hiatus--but your patience is greatly appreciated.


Larry Denninger said...

Good luck!

Even though I reached the 50,000 word mark last year, I didn't actually get to the end of the novel (my idea has evolved into something quite large, it seems). But rather than pick up where I left off, I'm starting a brand new one. I hope I like it!

scotch meg said...

Good luck, Erin!

Maybe I can do this next year, when I don't have college applications to assist and financial aid forms to fill out. My editing this year will be strictly personal essays in November.

But I've got several plots in my head (and even some notes), so thank you for mentioning NaNoWriMo.

Nicole Stallworth said...

Good luck! I hope you turn out a great one!

Deirdre Mundy said...

I'm not a big fan of stifling the internal editor-- I'll do it on occasion if I really need to get past a point in the plot, but all in all, leaving the editor on makes for LESS editing work later on!

BTW-- I write Middle-Grade scifi too, so if you ever want to do a manuscript swap, let me know! ;)

(I've had luck with short stories, but haven't sold a novel yet. Maybe this one will be it. I was thinking of declaring November NANOFINMO, since I'm halfway through and have been wasting time on the blogs instead of writing! :) )

John said...

Good luck! I agree 100% that deadlines help--sometimes we need that extra kick to get things done.