Another NaNoWriMo is behind me.
Did I learn anything? Were there any takeaways?
Oh, sure. Planning is good. Plotting can be a friend… even to a pantser like me.
Maybe only character-driven writers will understand this, but all the planning and prepping in the world still guarantees you nothing.
I was plodding right along, words flowing like a cool stream, when all of a sudden, my beloved protagonist looks around with the malevolent grin of a serial killer and dumps a plot twist in my lap. (We’re still not speaking.)
Okaaaay. Now what?
I went with it.
The scene I was writing looked nothing like the one I sketched out six weeks ago. But, hey. Words were flowing… from somewhere, so I kept writing—and making notes.
I gave a cursory glance to my journal every morning, wondering if the completed scene would resemble what I’d planned in any way.
But, I stayed with it, because that is the point of NaNoWriMo. Get the words out of your head and on paper…fifty-thousand of them at least.
I reached the halfway mark and wondered if Hemingway ever struggled like this. Then I realized he drank… and a glass of wine doesn’t sound bad. But should I drink it or give it to my protagonist?
Nah. I’m still not happy with her… the wine is mine.
After one glass of Sweet Red, I understand why Hemingway drank!
It gets you out of your own way. The wall of doubt and fountain of inhibitions fall and you write like you’re on fire.
Or maybe that was just me.
No, I’m not advocating drinking while writing. Our liver is our friend and unlike plots, we can’t get a new one with every manuscript.
But, a writer writes because they have to. It is a deep-seeded need that can only be fulfilled by putting words on paper. Anything else is unacceptable.
If you get hit with a dose of writer’s block, get out of your way. The characters didn’t change and the words remain the same. The problem is you.
Remember why you write.
Remember the freedom you feel.
Remember the sense of accomplishment you feel regardless of if it’s five, five hundred, or five-thousand words you leave on the paper.
It took me a couple of years to “get it” but the NaNoWriMo rule of no editing makes perfect sense. It makes me get out of my own way to just write. Of course, by doing so, I’m also giving my characters free reign, but that’s a completely different blog post.
I’ve spent the first three days of December making notes and moving things around in my MS, however, I’m putting it away until after the holidays. But sometime in January, I’ll have to decipher all those red squiggly lines and double blue lines, and wonder if I was typing in alien code.
And there may or may not be wine involved, because… Hemingway.
Every MS goes through them, especially in the editing phase.
I chatted with an author a couple of years ago who planned every aspect of her book, right down to the dialogue.
Other than spelling and grammar, there were no changes.
I was in awe.
I have no clue what a book’s title will be until I reach midpoint in writing… mostly.
But this ultra-author knew in advance what her characters would do and say, plot twists, and the ending.
That’s an amazing superpower to have.
Yet, I don’t think it’s one I want.
As a character-driven writer, the voices in my head trip me up almost daily when I began a new MS.
Saturday, Day 4 of NaNoWriMo, two in-the-moment-characters stole scenes. And they were good.
Yesterday, Day 6 of NaNoWriMo, the protagonist took a walk into existentialism.
It wasn’t planned, but it fit.
Will it stay? I doubt it.
But it did give me an idea for another WIP.
So, after six days of NaNo, I have nine scenes and 12K+ words written, FIVE pages of CHANGES, and an outline for a new WIP.
Didn’t see that coming.
Maybe it’s a different superpower.
NaNoWriMo Day 6 word count – 2037
Total – 12503/50000
On any given day, you’re sure to find a post or comment by someone saying they can never find the time to write.
Yes, if you work a fulltime job, have a spouse and children, friends and family, a hobby…any semblance of a LIFE, most days, your time is not your own.
But. Think about it. How many times have you sat down with your device of choice with a task in mind—paying bills, checking test scores, researching a future major purchase, book travel plans, etc.—and found yourself opening your email, checking any or ALL of your social network accounts, watching a video of a sloth eating a grape or taking a quiz to find out which Avenger you’re most like?
You’re not alone. We all have the pretty, shiny object that so easily pulls our attention away from the task at hand.
Pinterest is my downfall.
I can pull up the app in search of a photo of a land mass or mountain range to match a location I’ve written about, and two hours later, I have no photo of my location… but I do have three recipes for Pad Thai, a new pattern for an afghan, fifteen more coffee memes, and a detailed infogram on how to turn empty toilet paper rolls into a decorative Christmas centerpiece.
I am weak and in need of help… and probably intense counseling.
In my last NaNo Diaries post, I mentioned I’d jumped on the AlphaSmart bandwagon. No Internet connection, no wifi—just me and a sturdy little word processor that I purposely use away from all my other devices, including my phone. My adult children hate that.
But there are still times when I need to be online and around all my favorite distractions, and that’s when I use an Internet blocker. I have the paid version of Freedom.to. I can set it for any amount of time I chose, from minutes to hours, and the Internet is gone. Can’t open a browser or app. (Yes, I’ve tried.)
There are quite a few other Internet blocking apps available, but not all have free versions.
Anti-Social (In the process of merging with Freedom.to but love the name!)
Cold Turkey (Free Version Available)
Rescue Time (Free Version Available)
These are great little tools to have to help you block online distractions, but the writing part is still up to you. Sorry.
I started coming down with a head cold yesterday and had to struggle for word count… but I got it! For NaNoWriMo Day 3, I’m at 5544/50000.
Today is NaNoWriMo Double-Up Donation Day. Check it out. Make a donation and double your word count for the day.
I’m going to give it a shot… even though I can’t stop sneezing and my head feels bigger than Wyoming.
Writer’s block gets far too much credit for words not written and false starts on manuscripts.
Not being able to develop a character or plot to move the story forward is maddening. However, sometimes a lack of words is not the problem but the overabundance of words vomited by your brain!
After finishing a twenty-five-hundred-word chapter, you read it and cringe in horror at the forty-seven adverbs, nineteen pronouns, twelve dialogue tags, and eleven uses of the word ‘had.’
You believe writing is not your calling and consider a career in the food service industry where name tags and hats are required.
Instead, you delete the paragraph and start over.
You’re dealing with another type of writer’s block—one where you’re blocking yourself from moving forward because you’re trying to write the perfect first draft using the rules.
Everyone’s first draft is craptastic—you’re not going to be the exception.
First drafts get rewritten during the editing stage … hence the name FIRST draft.
Your story can (and will) change, making the chapter you’re agonizing over irrelevant.
Your editor could say the chapter doesn’t add to the story. Wave goodbye to the chapter.
Your MS will go through more changes than an Academy Awards show host.
Take a deep breath … and exhale.
Now. Write your story.
Let the words flow. Good, bad, passive, indifferent. Get them on paper.
Write your story. Finish it … and take a break from it.
After your break, make a copy of your MS and put it away.
Now you can use the rules and fix the excessive adverbs, run-on sentences and five-hundred-sixty-five occurrences of the word ‘that’ … or maybe that was just me.
Line up your Beta-readers and alert your editor.
And when you’re holding your published book in print form or on your reader, take out the saved copy of your first draft and compare the two.
You turned something craptastic into literature.
Pat your yourself on the back … and start all over again.
Write your story.
"Never forget it is real people who live out such tales and bear the price of the telling, in grief and guilt and sorrow". -Jacqueline Carey
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