Posts Tagged ‘editing’

Things Are Happening

I’m really excited about two things today, but first, an admission.

I only wrote 1,700 words today.

But, David, I hear you protesting, that number is actually more than what you need every day to finish NaNoWriMo.  You would be absolutely correct.  And, if my goal was just one of cranking out a mere fifty thousand words and calling it a month, I’m sure I’d be happy with my result for the day.  But the truth is, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far if that was my goal.

I had time today.  Work was slow, and there was little keeping me from my writing except for my own distraction.  I came up with many reasons why I wasn’t able to write.  I couldn’t focus, always expecting a call to ring in at any moment, but later in the day, I easily had 15 minutes between calls.  I could have done several 5-10 minute surges throughout the day, and probably added an extra two thousand words on top of what I got.

But, that didn’t happen, and I am where I am.

Of the writing I did finish though, I am very happy.  First, because I sat down to write, and I had no idea what to do.  Suddenly, I had this flash.  I wrote a 1000 word dream sequence that not only helped to move the story along, it helped me to flesh out some things I’m working on psychologically with my protagonist.  That was a big step for me, and I’m pumped about it.

The next thing I’m so happy about is this: things are actually happening in my book.  I felt for the first few chapters that I was doing a lot of set-up.  Set-up is important, too, believe me, when you’re introducing a new world and magic and strange technologies and trying to get your readers caught up on the history of the place while still leaving them scratching their heads enough to want to keep reading.  From a plot perspective, though, it’s sort of dull.  A few things happen here and there, but they are very static.  For the first time, now that I’m into the fifth chapter, I feel like I’ve got things moving along, and I’m hoping the carry on at a steady clip right through to the climax of the novel.

As I write, I notice things here and there that I want to improve, and I don’t just mean for this particular novel.  I feel like I have a very strong grasp of characterization and plotting.  I know how to write dialogue, and I can keep the story moving forward.  What I’m not so great at, though, is description and setting the right atmosphere.  I’m not taking notes, because I don’t want to give my inner editor any kind of foothold during my first draft, but I know that’s going to be an area of emphasis during my first rewrite and probably into my second.  I feel good that I recognize those as future steps in the process, though, because it helps me to visualize the entire journey from inception to completion of this novel.

I’m almost 50% ahead of schedule.  I should be at 10,000 words today, and I’m closing in on fifteen.  I might take an extra twenty minutes or so later today and just finish that up.

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Clearing the Slate

Tabula Rasa.

Literally, it means ‘blank tablet.’  There are any number of cliches I could throw around to get the same point across, but for your sake and mine, I won’t.  The exciting thing about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is the opportunity to start completely fresh with a brand new story.  It’s not necessary to revisit old work.  In fact, it’s discouraged. There are no real expectations other than sheer output.

Okay, there might be some expectations, like basically sound sentence structure and probably a modest grasp of English vocabulary. But, aside from that, all that matters is that 50,000 words are penned over the next month.  It may sound daunting, but also, it’s very freeing.  I get to write about whatever I want for thirty straight days.  Now, I have a ‘plan’ in place already for that novel, but I don’t have any deadlines, expectations, or goals, except for finishing.  It’s all about getting it done.

With that in mind, there are a few things to take care of first:

Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, has said that the biggest reason most aspiring novelists never progress past, well, aspiration, is that a grumpy old man (or woman) has taken up residence inside their brains.  His name is Ed(itor), and it is his life’s work to ensure you are never happy with whatever sentence you have just written.  He derives no greater satisfaction than to wile away the hours, pondering whether that one word is just… perfect.

Well, Ed is taking a vacation this month.  It doesn’t matter where, though I imagine he will find something wrong with any place he ends up.  I, on the other hand, will be perfectly free over the next thirty days to write whatever I want, without Ed’s constant feedback, derision, and overall dissatisfaction with the quality of my work.  Now, Ed will be back December 1st, but I’ll be ready for him with a nominally completed manuscript for him to mull over and critique and ultimately, shred to pieces.  For the next month, though, he and I will not be on speaking terms, not even a short phone call,  text message or IM.

With Ed safely out of the way, we run into public enemy number two: Procrastination.

It applies to homework, working out at the gym, mowing the lawn, and yes, writing a novel.  ‘I can work on it later’ is the oft-heard mantra of the unpublished writer.  It’s hard enough to publish a finished work, why complicate things by never letting yourself get that far?  Unlike your inner editor, though, procrastination has friends.  They are responsibility, fun, and Facebook.

The key to defeating procrastination has two parts: time management and motivation.  Time management is usually the harder of the two.  For many in my particular age cohort (fancy demography term alert), our lives outside of work are not particularly regimented.  We go out when we want to, watch television when we want to, and when we don’t want to, we don’t do it.  Unfortunately, we tend to fill up the empty spaces with… nothing. And, yes, folks, Facebook is nothing.  (I love Facebook, but I recognize the dangers that it poses as a temporal black hole, sucking away your life and your time in huge chunks.)

So, the first step is to make time for writing.  Set aside a certain amount of time each day, preferably at the same time if you can.   Second, when you’re bored, instead of facebook, try working on your novel, even if it’s only for ten minutes.  See how much you can do, challenge yourself. It’s amazing what the results might be.  Also, remember to pay your rent, feed your dogs, and pay attention to your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/neighbor’s cat who spends way too much time in your backyard.  Prioritize, and make writing your novel something near the top of your list.

Finally, find a way to motivate yourself, or get other people to do it for you if you’re not particularly adept in that area.  Some easy suggestions are to do fun things with your writing, like Word Sprints: giving yourself five minutes to write as much as possible, then doing it again to try to beat your previous records.  Post a chart of your current word count somewhere where other people can see it.  Tell people you’re writing a novel in 30 days, then allow them to ridicule you if you don’t follow through (fear of shame is a pretty strong motivator!)  Seriously, though, tell people what you’re doing, and keep them updated throughout.

If you’re still finding it difficult, nanowrimo.org, has ways now for you to raise money for student writing programs, just by writing your novel and asking for sponsors. It’s fantastic!

The most important thing, though, is to just sit down and write. Do it now, and don’t wait until tomorrow.  Give your editor a month off without pay, and finish a novel without fear.

I’m doing it, and I can’t wait to see what happens.