Thursday, 24 November 2011
26. This Woman's Work
Yatta! (I did it – Thank you, Hiro)
I completed the Nano challenge four or five minutes before we hit Tuesday 22nd and for the first time in, I don't know how long, I was able to fall asleep within seconds of dragging my arse to bed. This month was definitely tough and I hate how much pressure I put on myself to do a certain count each day. Nano was challenge enough and then I added to it, yes I finished early but because I really don't like the thought of not finishing a deadline on time.
Nano in 2012? I’ve proved to myself that with enough discipline I can deliver, I can hammer out thousands of words and even finish a novel. I’m not sure I need to prove that to myself every year, what I do hope is the habit of writing consistently, swallowing back excuses and repeating positive mantras such as ‘keep going’ continue well after Nano is over.
Yes, there are benefits of racing against time to reach the finish line but do they outweigh the negatives? It depends what side of the finish line you’re on.
Nano month has been ridiculously stressful, and worst yet, you feel like your rushing your plot along, forcing it move at a pace that doesn’t allow for any exploration of your characters or the world you’re building. Do you get paid for Nano? No. Do you get published after Nano? No. Does that stop you from beating yourself up when fall behind or lose the will to write for a day? Nope. I really enjoy the story I’m writing but I didn’t actually enjoy writing the last 15,000 words, and not just because it was rushed but mainly because with Nano it becomes about the numbers and not the story. I had to uncheck my word count so I wouldn’t stare at it wanting to cry when I saw I’d only written 77 words.
This might seem extreme, after all, I didn’t have to participate and I certainly could’ve quit at any time but even that makes you feel bad about yourself. I’m not blaming Nano, it’s a very effective way to give you a kick in the arse, wake yourself up and just get to it. The owners make it as fun as possible with book copies, badges and shirts and I assure you now that this is only personal experience I’m talking about.
What’s the best part about Nano? The rawness of your writing voice. Yes, it’s a first draft and there’s a lot you probably won’t use but it’s writing at its truest form, it’s your character’s at their most vulnerable and genuine moments. You can’t get that with planning because you restrict yourself as a storyteller when you outline every detail.
In effect, what Nano does is strip you of all the bad habits you’ve learned, however long you’ve been writing and gives you new ones. You’re forced to write and nothing more, don’t correct or overanalyse just keep writing until it’s finished. If you let go of yourself and let your characters breath, you’ll witness amazing things. I did.
The pace and the plot may be rushed along but the best thing about this method is that the characters are able to completely take the lead, and best yet, by the end you’ll have 50,000 words of that novel you were really excited about written down. I planned ‘Freak Shows’ very loosely and still my characters took a different direction, a certain character I thought would be quiet gentle turned out to be pretty ruthless. I was and still am mortified but it was a lesson learned; you cannot mould the people in your head so stop trying to before they start plotting against you.
Original Vs. Half Original
Freak Shows: The novel I’m currently writing is an old concept. I had to change a lot of things for it to work as a novel because it started as a fanfic for season 1 of Supernatural when I was 19.
The Winchesters find a hunt in a circus with a long and dark history where a child turns up missing every five or so years, reappearing as one of the acts years later. It was called ‘Changing Faces’ as the MC was an Illusionist. Anyway, I never posted the story; it was one of those stories that I wanted for myself and not for characters that weren’t mine. I wanted to make it about the kids rather than the hunt and ‘Freak Shows’ was born. The story sat in its personalised folder until a month ago, so thank you, Nano.
On another note, I have to say I’m pretty much in love with the ‘potential’ greatness of this story, and I say potential because I don’t think I’ve pushed it to its full potential yet. I have a lot of great moments, plot and character evolution, a pleasantly surprising and spooky subplot and fun dialogue but it was written in 3 weeks. As much as we’d like to think we’ve struck gold on the first try, the reality is much different. I love the people in this story enough to sit down and write until it reads close to what I imagined and feels as just as real.
And when I reach the real finish line, I promise take my heart off my sleeve and indulge in a bit of role play, where I’m not the writer of ‘Freak Shows.’ In the hopes that one day if it’s ever published, readers will love it as much as I do.
Nano Has A Buddy System
In closing, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my bud, Rae. We did this with my younger sister Chuck and our friend Gen, but truthfully, it felt like we were in a different battle zone. We all encouraged and patted each other on the back, which I will continue to do until they’ve all reached the word count, but Rae’s determination pushed me and mine pushed her. Chuck threatened a body part but for the life of me, I can’t remember what limb it was and Gen cheered every time she learned of my new update.
Chuck in particular has impressed me, it’s her first ever Nano attempt and she’s about to be 17 in about six minutes. I know a lot of writer buddies who are still struggling and they’ve been doing Nano for years, and while she’s a little behind, I’m a very proud big sister.
If I were to give out any advice, it would be to do this with friends.
Title Info: Greg Laswell (cover)