First week of #NaNoWriMo whacked me smack in the back of my neck

Exploding Book

I appologize for that insulting rhyme in the headline, but holy fucksocks this week turned my writing philosophies inside out!

Whatever I thought I knew, whatever I proudly proclaimed to have understood about Writing from working on my first novel (The Deep Link), I just realized is a handfull of smoke wafting through my brain. Figures of fog that you can’t hold on to, however much you grapple.

Why?

Here’s what happened:

I planned ahead. I plotted, wrote worldbuilding notes, explored the characters, and even tried out different endings to the story. I had it all in place. I knew what I wanted, and knew how I was going to get it.

Except, it didn’t work out.

First, I don’t know jack shit about writing horror. Loving the genre and having an afinity for all things terror, gore and the depths of the human psyche are all cool and whatnot, but they don’t mean diddly squat when it comes to writing horror.

Second, shockingly, not every story can be planned ahead. (cue the sarcastic cartoon laughter coming from the corner)

Not evey story is best written to an outline. Not every story is a work of architecture. Some stories are like a shapeshifting beast cowering in the darkness, a beast who’s power lies in the fact that it is not seen in its entirety, that it is not known or understood in advance.

And that is something I haven’t expected to be valid for my stories too. I mean, I’m a plotter. I love to come up with intricate ways to torment my characters and then plop them into the maze and watch them run and squirm like frightenend, confused little mice. I can’t be running through the maze with them, that’s preposterous! It’s insane! But it seems some stories require that insanity in order to work.

Sigh.

This first week of NaNoWriMo I set out to write 2’500 words each workday, that means that by Friday night I was supposed to have 12’500 words. I had 12’297 — woohoo! BUT it’s 12’297 words of material that’s not a story, and most certainly not the story I intended to write.

It seems I can’t put this story to paper the way I envisioned it. For whatever reason, for a whole set of reasons, it just won’t work this way.

Am I disappointed? Not in the least! I’m writing new stuff again which feels awesome, and I learned something important about storytelling: there is no one true way for any one writer. Each story requires a different approach in order to work. I hear you say DUH! but it’s something that you can be told a million times by a million different people, but until you experience it yourself you never truly get it.

So now I have 2 options:

  1. Quit this story, and start writing something else immediately (pantsing it)
  2. Set fire to the outline, and continue writing this story but take an entirely different angle to it and just let it… happen

(You might have noticed that quitting NaNoWriMo is not an option. 🙂 )

Pantsing.

*shudders*

Got any tips for me?

 

I just stumbled over this quote from Stephen King:

Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort, and the dullard’s first choice.

Ouch.

But given the fact that I struggle to finish reading any novel by Stephen King (holy shit-muffins that man is long-windeded and sidetracky), I won’t let his viewpoint weigh on me too heavily. But it sure as hell makes me think.

15 Replies to “First week of #NaNoWriMo whacked me smack in the back of my neck”

  1. That made me laugh. Maniacally.

    Just make a cup o’coffe, sit back, relax, and write SOMETHING. It will fall into place eventually. Just write what feels RIGHT. You’ll get there faster than you think, even while pantsing. Cruise lightly, wright tightly. 🙂
    Source: experience.

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    1. Absolutely agree. 🙂
      I’m not stressing out, just wondering what to do next. I think I’ll keep the basic premise of the novel, but “attack” it from a completely different angle and see what happens.

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  2. Interestingly, I wrote a post about plotter vs pantser. I do both myself. My method changes based on the book I’m writing. Never written two the same way.

    If you are going to do it on the fly follow your instincts. If you run into scenerio where you are wondering why a character loves cheetos and is eating them on the bus run with it.

    You no longer have a plan. Anything is valid.

    This method tends to produce a lot of extra. And that is 100% okay because when you read it through the extra bits stick out.

    Never stop in the middle of a scene because it has nothing to do with the end goal. Your end goal is fluid. What you need to get there is unknown.

    If you get lost in the narrative make a rough plot. A sentence or two for each important plot point. The whole thing shouldn’t be more than a few pages. It can center you and give a spring board.

    Tangents, sidetracks, weird segways are now your friends. Characters backgrounds and motivations can change. They won’t be the same by the end.

    Last but not least chin up and push forward.

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  3. Funny, and a very interesting point you raise.
    I start with a very loose plan, which I find corrals my ideas to some extent, but then if it starts to go in a new direction, I just let it. Then, if I like what’s happening, I create a new outline and attempt to keep to that … until once more it heads in a new direction again.
    Having thought about this process quite deeply, I think it might be due to the inherent chaos / complexity of the creative endeavour. When you plan, it’s a bit like a long-range weather forecast. Your ‘rough idea’ of how things will pan out is based on an expected sequence of events which at the start, you may not know in sufficient detail to accurately predict their effects. In chaos language, your storyline has “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”. So, once you get started, small, intriguing deviations present themselves which can either be ignored, or accepted as creative opportunities. If you choose to accept them, the final result may look very different to your original plan, but it will likely flow more naturally than if you’d stuck rigidly to your original plan.

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    1. I see what you mean, Simon. My problem this time, however, is not that I get sidetracked or that subplots start to spring up here and there, goading me into different directions. It’s rather that the story I set out to write, and which I have a very clear image of start-to-finish, simply won’t work (in my hands). It feels stale and one-dimensional, predictable, short-circuited somehow. I know it’s a good story, but I also know that telling it this way won’t work. So I must either force it, force myself to wirte it well this way, or find a better way to tell it, a completely unsuspected way.

      I strongly suspect it feels so stale to me because I overplanned it. That’s why I’ll take a different approach to it, unplanned this time, and let it mutate. See what happens. 🙂

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  4. Here is the thing: Go by the seat of pants only and you’ll have more rewriting than writing. Fine if you have time. No matter what, no structure ( it is not but closely related to architecture) you’ll have no story. You should take the hybrid approach here, stick to your action or plot sequence plan, stuff that must happen for your characters to react too, and let subplot and character development run its course.

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    1. Hybrid it is. 🙂

      But I must disagree that no structure means you’ve got no story. I’m a huge proponent of storytelling structure, as most of my blog posts indicate, but as I’ve recently discovered, some stories require a non-linear approach. I’m experimenting with this a little this month. Non-linear doesn’t mean no structure, of course, but it doesn’t require a structure to be drafted. Which kinda saves my ass this time. 😀

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  5. Indeed, Little Grasshopper, some stories cannot be planned or plotted or even thought about too much. As a lifelong pantster, that suits me just fine–let fingers fly over keyboard, watch the story tell itself, be as surprised as any reader when whatever happens happens. The planning and plotting and thinking, for me, come *after*–yep, pantsting it requires huge amounts of revision and shaping (and reshaping). But (again, for me) that first draft–and especially NaNo drafts–is basically me discovering the story, finding out what it’s about, exploring the characters, the setting, finding the voice of a story. When I write crap (which is all too often), I let it happen. I give myself permission to write crap, because it’s only by letting go of that internal editor that I’m going to get through to the good stuff, to the lines that will make me go later, “Whoa, did I really write that?” And that, those Whoa moments, are why I do NaNo at all 🙂

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  6. My current wip is an interwar occult one – a continuation from ‘The Gift’. It involves two sisters – one of whom is now incarcerated in Lubyanka. She is going to be very important but is for the moment a sideline to the main plot set in London. I have a complete block on the London section, convincing myself I need more planning and research. The ‘side-line plot is going great guns – 15k so far – but all out of context and to be ‘knitted’ in as alternate chapters when I finally run clear on the main plot. As you said, there are many different ways to skin a cat. And good luck with nano and the late night and coffee culture 🙂

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  7. Ignore everything King says. He believes that to be a writer, you must write exactly like him.

    You don’t learn how to writes novels; you only learn how to write the novel you are writing.

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    1. “You don’t learn how to writes novels; you only learn how to write the novel you are writing.”

      And that right there is my quote of the month, Andrew. Thanks!

      Like

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