Monday, October 27, 2008

plots, ponderings, and NaNoWriMo

Due to many factors (my novel not selling, work being crazy, Warcraft being fun) which wouldn't matter if I was truly as HARDKOR about writing as I like to think I am, not much creative scribling has been going on. However, I have been very slowly and steadily building up notes and characters for a story I've been on-off working on for years. And as the timing works out, I am coming up on the end of my planning just in time for NaNoWriMo.

My relationship with the program is cold at best. I've always thought it was fairly silly. If you want to write a novel, there's nothing and no one to stop you except yourself. Writing is the most self sufficient art. It requires nothing except something to write on, regularly applied time, and the ability to push yourself forward once the 10% inspiration has bitten the dust and you're in the long, dry valley of the 90% perspiration. There is nothing more heart breaking or depressing than being 20,000 words into a novel and realizing that it's broken. It's dead and stupid and you can't fix it. Sometimes I make it over this hurdle, and those are the novels I finish. Sometimes I don't, and those are the novels that fall by the wayside while I move on to greener, less retarded pastures.

Everyone's path to storytelling is different, but for me, it is the ability to jump this hurdle, not word count or getting to the end, that makes me a novelist. An ability, I might add, that has been failing me of late.

NaNoWriMo takes the mack truck approach. Make your numbers, get it done. And it's true, if you sit down and make yourself write 1800 words a day (which I think is a ludicrous number. On my best days, when I'm going full steam, I get 2000 words in 2 and a half hours. Most days I'm happy if I get 1k in the same amount of time. I know I'm not the fastest writer, but if I made it my goal to get 1800 words a day, I'd have to spend 5 hours writing on average. My creative brain doesn't function that long.)

But NaNoWriMo, while an interesting tool, and I must admit a good get-up-and-go for getting people who've always wanted to write a novel to actually sit down and experience the day to day slog (because believe me, it's not roses and princes every day. Most days it's staring at the miles of empty white screen and trying not to panic), but in terms of helping people tell a story, it's a wobbly crutch at best, more likely to burn out potential novelists than create them.

If you're going to write a book, it isn't about the numbers, or how fast you go. It's about having a story strong enough to plow through the chasm of despair that you know is waiting for you somewhere in the middle. It's having characters who are strong enough to stand up and pull you out when you get stuck. If you can grasp those things, then the numbers will come by themselves so long as you take the time to write every day.

This is what I have learned through two novels. I hope it helps someone.

Now, back to the book.


cindy said...

i will be using it to start my sequel. i'm not the type to have to write every day. i'm not the type who gets all sorts of ideas. nano helped me write 35k for my debut AND establish a good writing routine.

and that's all i need it for. i don't expect to "win" at the end of the month. i use it for my own reasons. it gives me that push i need. good luck with writing and also with subs!

Rachel Aaron said...

I'm really glad NaNo helped get you started. That is what it's really meant for, showing people that writing is something you can do, and not some mythical art. I guess I just get so angry at the people who treat it as a 1 month marathon, finish 50k and think well, that's done, now that I'm a writer, back to normal life.