Saturday, November 15, 2014

NaNoWriMo progress and advice for other writers

NaNoWriMo has coincided with major roadworks in our town. And by major, I mean that there are only two roads to speak of, and one is completely closed. Everyone's using the other one, and so the three minute trip into town is now a 15 to 20 minute trip into town.

So between the two time sinks, I'm not really doing much of anything else.

I'm halfway through the 50,000 word goal of a Nano book, which is good, because I'm halfway through November. It feels odd to write something in such a linear fashion. I have an outline and know where I'm going, it's just that it takes forever to get there, much like going into town. (It would have helped if I'd written the outline before the beginning of November - I might be three quarters of the way through if I had.)

Everybody is supposed to have advice for other writers about this sort of thing, so here's mine so far:

1. I once heard an actor* talking about doing Improv. He said the most important thing in a sketch was to say "yes". If the other person gives you a line like, "I hear your wife is an alien from Arcturus," you say, "Yes, and..." and go on to supply something of your own. You don't say, "No, actually she's just from around here," because that will shut down a lot of possibilities.

I find myself shutting down possibilities in first drafts all the time. "Raymond asked her if she wanted to go to the all-nite diner and she said no, she was too tired." Nope, you can't do anything with that. Either she says yes, and the story goes in that direction or Raymond never brings it up in the first place. Who wants a story about people who are too tired? I have to go back and take all these things out.

2. Something that may be related to #1.  I used to be wishy-washy about some things when I was writing.  Janice wasn't sure if she liked the decor. Jim had not made his mind up about buying the motorbike. Inigo put off making his mind up about the party until later.  After a long while (i.e., not during this month, but after examples over many years) I realized that it was because I, as the writer, had not made my own mind up about whatever it was. And if I didn't care either way, who else would? I made an effort to have an opinion on things ready before the character had to think about them.  This seems to be a close relative of the infamous "she woke up in a white room" scene and the equally dreaded "she looked out of the window but could only see fog" scene, both of which are telling me that I've failed to imagine the character's environment, so I just called it featureless instead and hoped my inner editor wouldn't notice.

* I think it was actually a comedian but I couldn't think of a funny line. It's late and I've been writing, and/or stuck in a traffic jam all day. How about "No, actually she's from Poughkeepsie."

Poughkeepsie is always funny.


Carroll McNeill said...

Every time someone mentions Poughkeepsie I feel a need to bless them for sneezing.

Darlene said...

Guilty, guilty on both! Happy to hear about your excellent progress!

Lyle Hopwood said...

Carroll, they have great names over there. Schenectady. Hamtramck or whatever. Bayonne. So Cal is boring in comparison.


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