I’ve read quiet a few writing advice books. Most of them agree on one point: As a writer, you have to go to where it hurts. You have to look into those places that make you cringe and wanna look away, you have to take them, write them. Naturally, I hesitate to really plunge into it. After all, it hurts. It isn’t easy to open your eyes, and look at all those ugly places inside you. All the things you wanna hide. The things you know you want to do, you have to do to your hero, but shy away from.
I know what’s the right thing to do, and ultimately, I’m going to do it. Then there is this moment, when I do all these hurtful things to my protagonist (and it really feels that way – not life, not the villain, not the antagonist, I am the person who is responsible), and it’s like liberation. My writing connects with some higher level of consciousness, it’s creating some sort of flow, where I’m only the pen, the medium through which words are formed on the screen. This is really hard to describe, but this is the moment I write for. Makes me sound like a masochist.
So, now I know where my story’s going to end, I know how to get there (roughly), but I also realize there’s a big chunk of already written story, that is an enormous glitch in the way. I have to get rid of it, or at least change it so it fits again into my story, but that – no surprise there, I fear – is going to hurt, as amputation does at any rate. It’s not only in terms of story or theme or whatever, that you have to go where it hurts. Sometimes it’s in the realization that your story just doesn’t work the way it is and you have to change at least a fourth part of what you’ve already written. That’s hurting almost more, because there’s no fun part to it. That’s just work. (Well, my inner sadist, who likes to play around with my own inner masochist, points out gleefully that this is the price I have to pay for pantsing…)
Since I started editing my (let’s call it) current draft of my novel, a bunch of characters walked in who weren’t there before. I’m not sure yet if I really need them, but they help me finding the way through the labyrinth of my brain. And my novel. Only problem: Everytime a new character arrives, I have to rename someone. It’s like a jinx. Either I already have a (rather important) character with a name similar to my new acquisition, or a (not so important) secondary character with a similar name to the new character. Which is, in its essence, one and the same thing. It’s kind of unconscious naming (if that’s a thing). Oftentimes I don’t notice it right away.
I have characters that had their name changed four or five times already, and I can’t promise that it won’t happen again. Luckily I didn’t rename them so often as to forget who they are. I hate name-generator-thingy-things, so everytime I realize that there was another one (how could that even happen? Again?), I take my encyclopedia of names and start digging. Or I take my book on mediaeval culture and literature and skim through the index of names, if I’m looking for a mediaeval name. I try not to have more than one name that starts with the same letter, to not be confusing. Most of my characters tend to start either with B or W, for what it’s worth. My mind seems to like those letters.
I’m so more than thankful for the search and replace option of my writing program. Makes changing names easy.
Oh, seriously. Day 3 of CampNaNoWriMo and I’m already out of motivation. Ok, perhaps it’s the lack of sleep (I drifted off around four in the morning). I know perfectly well what I want to write, what I need to write, I just don’t want to…you know what. Maybe it’s only today and tomorrow, everything will be perfectly fine. Maybe later today, I’ll find my motivation. But right now… I’m not going to fall off the wagon. I just want a break. And I have to accept that it’s perfectly fine to have a day like this. To give myself some rest. Beating myself up won’t change anything. It’ll only increase my inner resistance. That still small voice is allowed to shut up for a change. I just have to make sure to resume writing tomorrow.
Friedrich Schiller, Preface to The Robbers, 1781
Schiller knew already that there is nothing more boring than a simple all-black-villain. His choice of words may be a bit florid nowadays, but his idea is dead on. Don’t make your villain a flat copy of some random comic baddie. Give him some humanity. Same as the hero, the villain WANTS something. The difference is, he goes the wrong way about it. Makes questionable choices.
Camp NaNoWriMo, day one: I didn’t feel the typical NaNoWriMo-Anticipation yesterday, but I feel it today. I couldn’t sleep, so I read two chapters of my WIP and decided what to change, what to add, what to delete. I may have forgotten what it was, but I trust my brain enough to recognise it again when I read it.
I changed my wordcount-goal last minute from 80K (complete work, counting in the 63K I’ve already written) to 20K (that I actually have to write to reach 80K).
Since I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, I measure my works in words. It may be more accurate or meaningful to count pages, but I feel much more satisfied counting words. My sense of accomplishment tells me, that 5000 words are more than 10 pages. (I don’t know if 5K translate actually to 10 pages, or 20, but that doesn’t matter now). And I love the satisfaction it creates, when I export my 60-something-K to manuscript pages and see full of amazement, how much I actually wrote! That’s part of my reward at the end.
So, do you prefer to count pages or words? And why?
Over the last six days, I wrote 3500 words. That’s nothing, since I know I can write 3500 a day. But I’m content. I’m aiming to write at least 300 words a day, because that’s a manageable amount. Not a dreadful mountain that inspires fear and provokes failure.
Writing 300 words a day is my way to trick myself. Most of the time, I write more. But if I don’t write more, I don’t have to fret and scold myself. And 300 are 300 more than none. I’m not good in maths, but my calculator says, that’s 109500 words a year. That’s a novel.
Of course I don’t write everyday. I’m too lazy. I get distracted too easily. It would be nice though…and since I joined Twitter and detected the magic of hashtags like #wordmongering and #amwriting, it gets constantly better. After tweeting that I’m now writing for half an hour, I consequently have to do it. The only way to be a writer is to write. Simple as that.
Well, that’s the question. What should I do?
In my previous post, I stated my goal to edit my manuscript that I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2011. There are many holes in that first draft, plot and otherwise. I’m a pantser through and through, and I’m paying for that. I get swamped, I drown in the sheer endlessness of the task ahead. Maybe next time I try something different and do an outline. For a change. But first, I got to finish this. I have to dig out those holes, find them, identify those things that just aren’t quiet right. And do research. I get the feeling I should construct an outline out of my manuscript and use it to revise that damn thing.
Gosh, it’s too late at night, and that’s probably my fatigue speaking. Before I decide anything rash, I read it trough (again). Then I print it out, read it through (again) and use some colour. Everything is going to be OK. Colour will fix it.
This April, I’m participating in CampNaNoWriMo for the first time. I participated and won in NaNoWriMo twice, but everytime when November was gone, so was my motivation. My goal for Camp is to edit one of my NaNovels. I’m currently at 60K, and I’m planning on bolstering up those plot holes, flat tires and shallow pools all over the place. My wordcount goal is 80K, but deep down I think that 100K would be better. As I’m never going to accomplish that, I want the 80K. Wait, you think, isn’t editing about cutting out, kill your darlings and yada yada yada…? Well, yeah. Normally, I’d agree. But personally, I write very sketchy. Give me the task to write an essay of one and a half page and I’ll be struggling to even get to page two. Tell me to write a thesis of fifty pages, I end up with thirty. Fourtyfive if I’m lucky. Once something is said, it’s said. Plain and simple. I’m not the elaborating type, never was. Therefore, editing means filling holes with me.
So, am I a Camp NaNo rebel? Uh, that would be exciting!