Since I had a little angst fit here about National Novel Writing Month, and then decided to do it anyway, I thought I owed you guys an update.

Good stuff/bad stuff: I’m over 22,000 words, which is somewhat behind pace. I need to average close to 2,000 words a day from here on in order to get to 50,000 at the end of the month. The chance of having something that’s even marginally *complete* by that point is pretty much nil — as I worried at the beginning of the month, my ideas aren’t organized enough. But writing 50,000 words on a loosely related set of ideas/events/characters is within reach if I keep pushing forward. What I think is going to be crucial is to have some momentum going into this coming weekend. Because Saturday/Sunday, if I’m committed enough and barring any kind of unforeseen disaster, I can just hunker down and churn out a whole bunch of words. That’s the advantage to having a lifestyle in which I can, for the most part, hermit-it-up for a while, if I so choose. The fact that I spent the past few months running all over creation to rock concerts and plays and political rallies helps with letting me decide this is okay, because (a) I’ve gotten a lot of extroversion out of my system and (b) after all of that madness, I’m kind of broke, which makes staying in more practical. (Sidebar: my NaNo, such as it is, has rock bands and politics in it, so at least some of the running around counts as research).

As for the NaNo process itself, it has its up and down side. For the first week or so, I was finding it suspiciously easy to just sit down and throw the sufficient number of words on the page. (I have not reread ANYTHING, by the way, I just have Scrivener counting for me). My initial approach was try to expand a 600 word story that I had written for a short fiction challenge. This was literally the opposite experience of the first draft of the story, and in fact of most of my writing experiences. Because I’m used to a very ‘get from point A to point B and do it efficiently’ approach. In fact, with my natural tendencies being, ahem, wordy, I’m used to constantly focusing on getting the story SHORTER. When writing the 600 word version of the story, I was constantly shaving off bits and trying to convey events in as few words as possible. My rewriting strategy was to (a) start from scratch with just the idea of the original and (b) flesh it out. I thought the 600 word story would give me maybe 3,000 words? Try 10,000. Honestly, I have no idea HOW I stretched the concept into 10,000 words. I’m thinking that there will end up being a 3rd completely different version that is in the 3,000 ballpark I was aiming for. (This may actually be a valid professional approach? Dorothy Allison calls it “the accordion”, I believe). What became most painfully clear in writing that part of the story (which is, really, the first chapter, though so far only tangentially related to what else I’ve written) is that I’d been using the original 600 word form to avoid thinking things out, so I’d constantly get to a point and go, “How would that have happened? How did I expect that to work?” The kind of thing that is very easy to describe in a couple sentences and much more difficult to work out in a scene. So either the idea isn’t as good as I thought or, God forbid, I have to do research. That’s. . . not horrible, actually. For the most part, I enjoy researching fiction, it’s just not something I’ve allowed myself to do during NaNo. (Except listening to bands. And making up stories about what they’re probably doing when they are not on stage. THAT is totally valid research). Research is a rabbit hole that can both be the awesome part of writing and the morass that you fall into. Also? Thank God for the Internet. I have nothing but enormous amounts of respect for writers who lived before Wikipedia. They had to actually know what they were talking about.

Anyway! My current status, like I said, is that I have about 22,000 words and also that it’s been like pulling teeth to get anymore out. I think this is partly that I’m used to working major scenes out in great detail in my head (especially scenes involving dialogue) long before I actually start putting the words on the page. And for the first week or so it was easy to draw on scenes that I’d already invented. But now the writing has gotten ahead of the planing and I think — what next? Even though (as I realized in the course of an email conversation about this) several of my major characters have yet to get in the same room together, I feel like, “oh God, there is nowhere else for this to go.”

So, tonight, I think I’m going to take it easy — read my new comics, watch the Springsteen appearance from Jimmy Fallon’s show last night (RESEARCH!), and figure out my plan of attack for going forward. I might brainstorm a list of scenes that the story could use, or questions that I want to answer, or prompts that I can just start writing on. I suppose an outline would be good but I’m not having a lot of luck with architecture.

I hope the rest of you who are NaNoing, or working on other projects, are having a productive month. How are your projects going? Do you have any words for me? What do you do when you get stuck?

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