This is a guest post by Laura Montgomery. Since this is now the middle of NaNoWriMo, many of us will probably see at least some of ourselves in what Laura has to say.–ASG
I would like to report that I am waltzing through NaNo. I am not.
Many of you know about National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November across the country, across the world, and even maybe on the dark side of the Moon because why else would NOAA have tried to make you get a remote sensing license for taking pictures of the Moon unless there was someone there? (And, these people have to be on the dark side because we’d see them if they were facing us.)
Originally, the rules required contestants to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. They had to start it on day 1 and finish by month’s end. The organizers have relaxed the rules on this, if I remember right, which means that since I only followed the rules to the T once, I am no longer a NaNo rebel. I’m relaxed.
Or, I should be relaxed. I am using NaNo for a novel that had already reached somewhere in the 40,000 word range. On day 10, I reached 57,000 words, and suddenly didn’t know what happened next. How was I going to get to the exciting twist at the mid-point I had planned? I didn’t know, and I was appalled. I’m a pantser, but pantsers aren’t supposed to freeze, I told myself. We’re supposed to be carefree. What’s with this groping around in the dark?
I resorted to pre-writing. I tried describing the mid-point and working backwards. I realized the mid-point drama is a bit of an inchoate mass—or mess—in my mind. Pre-writing helps. You know how they tell you to tell someone what’s happening so you can see if it makes sense when you say it out loud? Even if your friends get really busy when you try to carry through on this, you can tell someone, namely yourself. Write it down.
You leave out all the scenery, the dialogue, the introspection, reflection, and conniving, and you say “They go here. They argue about what happened earlier because Fred thinks it was great and Matilda wants it to never happen again. By the time they reach the waterfall, Fred is ready to push Matilda in it. And he does. So much moisture. So much anger.”
Or, you can employ a whinier approach: “Oh, oh. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I hate this. I wish I were a plotter. I want the scene where he reveals M’s secret and everyone gets mad at him. But how do I get them all together? How about a dance? No, there was dancing after the fight. How about a meeting? No, I want an activity. Ah, hah! Peter needs to learn to shoot a rifle. He’ll have plenty of teachers because people love to tell other people how to do stuff. Remember the chopsticks. Others will come just because they’re nosy and want to see if he’s good at that, too. Then he can blow it in front of a lot of people. Excellent.”
Now, maybe that makes sense to no one but me, but it’s useful. I know what I’m working toward. Then I can work backward. “My man Peter needs to keep pursuing clues. Who would he go see? The Pittmans and Dean. Obviously. But he needs to ask someone where the Pittmans live and who better than Colin Mazur since he’s Rain Pittman’s teacher? Good, that lets Peter snoop around some more. Somewhere in there someone suggests a shooting lesson. Not Colin.”
That all helped, and now I have too much going on, which brings us to Meditation 2: It’s Too Long and I’m Approaching the Mid-Point Asymptotically.
Be sure to check out Laura’s work here.