Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Riding Wild Horses; Nanowrimo Week 2

Here we are into week two of Nanowrimo and I have to tell you I have no idea what my story is about. None. I’m up to over 12,000 words of the required 50,000 and I have a manuscript so rambly and full of unrelated characters galloping around like crazy herds of wild horses I defy anyone to make sense of it, not to mention all my run-on sentences. The good news is, I don’t really care!

And to me, that’s what Nano is all about: breaking free of set-in-stone plot lines or worrying about “making sense.” For the entire month of November, Nanowrimo grants us the creative license to write non-sense, and with that comes, I believe, some of our greatest work. The sudden revelation, the bizarre foray, the unexpected character, the impossible location: they all come together somehow and by the end of the month they truly do gel. I’ve been through this process three times already (four times if you count the year I took part in Scriptfrenzy) and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s this: trust your gut and just let it happen. If your heart says, “Write it,” obey.

In between the madness, though, there are certainly times when I’ve exhausted my ready-to-go writing prompts and have found myself lagging behind on my daily word count quota. To get things moving again (and to get those wiley words on paper) I’ve come up with a list of pen movers:

* Closets. List what’s inside. I’ve found lost documents, old shoes, lockets, and prison records. Each of these has made great starting points for the next 1000 word burst of inspiration.

* Memories. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about tightening or deleting back story. For one month at least, back story reigns supreme. Even if most of it has to go in the bin when you revise, you will know your characters better than you ever would if you’d followed the rules and left out these very important histories. Choose any timeframe you want: a birthday, a holiday, the first day of school, or just spilling a cup of coffee at work ten minutes ago.

* What’s cooking? What does your character love to eat? Have him or her make it, preferably with another character in the room to add some conflict or subtext.

* Dreams. These are doozies and can use up a lot of words.

* Write about your characters’ great-grandparents. Why are they important to the story?

* Describe your character’s best friend.

* Followed by their worst enemy. With any luck this person could turn into the story villain.

* Your character just received a mysterious parcel. What is it, where did it come from, and why is it the worst thing to happen this year?

* Where did your character go on vacation last year and what terrible thing happened there that they still can’t get over?

* Describe your characters’ dysfunctional workplaces.

* Write letters, e-mails, tweets from your characters to each other. Their quirks, problems, and complaints can take up pages and pages of writing.

Tip of the day: Even if you’re not participating in Nanowrimo, it’s always helpful to have a list of writing tricks and prompts ready to go. Feel free to use any or all of the ideas above. At the same time, try making a specific list of your own that fits whatever project you’re working on now. The key is to do whatever it takes to keep you writing. Like the little boy said when handed a shovel and faced with a pile of manure: “There’s just got to be a pony in here somewhere!”


Willow said...

Good luck with NaNoWriMo--I don't think I have the stamina!

Jan said...

Thank you for sharing your week two woes with us. This is my first NaNoWriMo and I'm really struggling this week. I'm on target as far as word count, but like you, questioning if any of the 46 pages I've written so far are worth reading.

I've had mysterious incidents pop up that were not in the outline and I have no idea where they're going to lead.

This is also my first fiction piece, so dialogue is a whole new animal for me.

It's good to know that others who have much more experience than I have are struggling in the second week of NaNo, too.

Guess we just have to keep pushing through!

Thanks again!
(YackyJan on NaNoWriMo)

Priscilla said...

Thanks for this post! This is my first year as well and I am struggling...I feel like I am plodding along. I had just written a short list of prompts for myself, but you offer some great ones I've added to my list! And it's nice to hear that it might all come together in the end. I keep telling myself, I'll be happy if I have ten (or even five! two!) workable pages when all is said and done. It's more than I had when I started!