Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Prose and Cons
Wry Moments in November
On the 16th of November, this is in my blogger drafts folder:
I interrupt my nail-biting, umming, ahing, plotting and swearing to give you a short news update on how the Nanowrimo thing is going.
I am on 16 000 words. I should be on 25 000. Last night I realised who my main character is - NOT the character I previously thought. That's ok. Apparently Moby Dick was going to be all about Bulkington, until Ahab stepped into the frame, and Melville had to wash Bulkington off the ship with an almighty wave.
Its ok, its ok, its ok.
But what of Nanowrimo? Is it working for me?
Because I am by nature a slow and ponderous writer and this is a massive kickstart.
Because I am a deadline whore and it supplies what many aspiring novelists never have - a deadline, and a sense of community
Because I am writing everyday
Because I am NOT editing and
NOT revising and
NOT being precious about what comes out.
Because I am a deadline whore, and I am trying to wean myself away from this dependence - I just want to write for the pleasure of it!
Because I thought my November would be clean like a new whiteboard. Its not. It filled up quickly, with the UN job finally coming home to roost (deadline, 20 November) and student exams and a conference that I just couldn't miss.
Because when I know that I don't have it in me for that day and I'm just writing crap for the sake of wordcount, I get irritated and stop believing in it.
Because I am ultimately a slow and ponderous writer.
Because I'm probably breaking the rules by using a set of characters that I developed years ago, and so I care too much about them to just do the fly by the seat of the pants thing that wrimo requires.
On Friday the 20th of November I was on 25k. A good friend came to stay for a week. We went to the Mountain Sanctuary Park for the weekend. Husband and I have a strict no laptops rule for weekends away, and so I wrote by hand. Lots.
On the 24th of November my Facebook status read: One thing I have learned in November: you can't write a novel and edit a non-fiction book in one month.
On Friday the 27th I had given up on the full 50k. Just be kind to yourself was the mantra for a full November.
On Saturday the 28th my Facebook status read: Tamara does have 30 000 words. The novel is half full not half empty.
On Sunday the 29th I logged on the Wrimo site, determined to do at least 1000 words, as this is my comfy rhythm for a daily output. Their front page story urged that every year, hundreds of writers flashflood in the last few days and lift their wordcounts from 30k to 50k in three days, or even from 5k to 50k.
I decided: I am a deadline whore. This is a deadline. Let me at least try, because I'm not going to get another strange self-imposed virtual deadline like this in a while, spiced up by a bit of healthy sibling rivalry. I went onto the forums and found scores of people who were trying for the same thing. They reignited my spark with their wild ambition, their gung-ho attitude and their staggering word count records (apparently there are people out there who do in fact write 50k in one day, I still don't understand how that is possible).
I wrote 10k on Sunday night, and 10k on Monday, posting the last 50k word count half an hour before the midnight cut-off point.
In that time I:
Probably contradicted my plot arc about 300 times;
Was tempted to cut and paste from previous fifteen-year old draft attempt of novel about 36 times (I didn't);
Asked myself 'what's the point you're only going to delete this later?' about 999 times;
Did away with hyphens altogether so I could have words count as two not as one;
Checked my word count every (on average) 500 words;
Deleted very little (only when I could replace something like simultaneous -with at the same time);
Ate a fair amount of chocolate;
Took reasonable breaks;
Had my characters shout at me for trying to impose expositionary nonsense on them;
Witnessed a weird little villain dressed like Michael Jackson burst into the middle of an elephant poaching scene;
Allowed him to hijack the entire rest of the story, just to find out who the hell he was. (I still don't know. Except that he has shady connections with the Chinese mafia and lives in a crumbling colonial house in the middle of nowhere and has his own aeroplane)
And at the end of it all, I got this:
and thought -
er, ok, and what was all that about?
Do I have a novel?
Might I have one if I add another 20 000 words?
More like another 50 000. Er, maybe I'd be better off cutting 20 000 and 4 subplots and keeping it as an elegant novelette.
Am I going to show you any of it?
Not yet, dear ones, not yet.
Will I do the Nanowrimo thing next year?
[pics from the old customs house on Ibo Island, Mozambique]