It’s Day Eleven of NaNoWriMo and while I’ve managed to achieve my word count each day (a minimum of 1700 words), I’m still susceptible to panic and overwhelm. For example, yesterday as I drove home from my solo writing retreat in Estes Park I wasn’t congratulating myself on the progress I’d made. Instead, I worried that I hadn’t yet found my narrator’s true voice. Then I switched to agonizing over my “too many plot lines” I’d never be able to connect, followed by the certainty that my first draft was such an irredeemable mess it would take years to revise the manuscript into anything coherent.
I felt like a poser. I wanted to run away from the whole thing.
Those feelings mirror what it’s like when I stand in the ocean and watch a huge wave come my way. I experience a slew of emotions. Panic. Exhilaration. Awe. Fear. An urge to run for shore.
While I frequently do run from big waves, I don’t like to run from my writing commitments. So this morning when I woke with those same angsty feelings, I looked for some online support and wisdom to help me reel in negative thoughts about my first draft. I found this: 7 Things NOT to Worry About During Your First Draft
All my worries are addressed in that article which makes me think I’m not the first writer in history to freak out about her shitty first draft. Newsflash, huh?
Today I continue working on my NaNo project. And as the words add up I have those same big-wave feelings I experience when I choose to dive into the wave and then come out the other side. Exhilaration. Pride. Awe.
The desire to do it again.
So I’ve decided to do NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) this year and am spending my time before November 1st figuring out characters and outline. It’s intimidating to think about 50k words in 30 days and I’m fully aware my success depends on the very best road map I can create.
I had a cold shock the other day with the realization that my outline was a series of “and then” scenes (one event following another, without an increase in tension). As written, my outline was worthless. I’m not gonna have the luxury of taking breaks to noodle on how to increase conflict in the NaNo draft. I must have built-in conflict before I begin which means I need to link my scenes with “but” and “therefore.” Note: there are many links out there regarding Trey Parker’s explanation regarding “but, therefore”).
Last night I couldn’t sleep and spent hours in the dark thinking about my protagonist and what he’ll be up against in my new book. Tons of ideas bounced around my head (none of which I wrote down) and then I remembered what I’d read in Damn Fine Story (written by Chuck Wendig, profane and big-hearted gift to the writing world). To paraphrase: it doesn’t work to cram a plot onto a character; the characters drive the story.
This morning I reread Damn Fine Story’s chapter two: “Soylent Story: It’s Made Out of People.” And guess what? I’m feeling much better about my upcoming NaNo experience.
Thank you, Chuck!
One of the best things about being a writer is that we can always learn and become better storytellers. Today, I happened upon two insights regarding character motivation (wants vs needs, and choices) that were worded in such a way that I immediately spotted what was wrong with my work-in-progress. What I read wasn’t new to me, but information doesn’t always sink in the first (or second or fifth) time I come across it. Today, things clicked. And that makes this writer very, very happy.
Art can’t be taught;
passion can’t be taught;
discipline can’t be taught;
but craft can be taught.
And writing is both an art and a craft.
~ Elizabeth George