Saturday, December 17, 2011

On little milestones and what they mean

I have had half a month on my hands to get over the euphoria, and I must admit I am far from reaching my state of equilibrium. NaNoWri month, the national novel writing month is over and I am a winner. Last year I had jumped on the bandwagon, and managed about ten thousand words in the ten days that I could get in the month. This year, my schedule was more manageable and I thought I could do the entire fifty thousand word challenge. "Should be a piece of cake. Nice and easy." How wrong I was. It was far from effortless. What a struggle, what a thrill at the finish, what a ride!

I am not the most organized of people, but I had never written or ever functioned this way before, and I admit albeit reluctantly, that it was an exhilarating ride. Hmm. I must say it was not merely tougher than I imagined, it was downright ridiculous and crazy. To explain, here is a graph that my husband, the analyst, made.

When the month began, I had a mere wisp of an idea floating around in the pathways of my mind. I knew my story but I didn't even have names for my characters. No outlines, no back-stories, no idea of a POV, nothing, nada. Just a story. I almost started with 'Once upon a time there was a kingdom far, far away...'! Then there was a period of being stuck, story just hanging midair everywhere I went. In the kitchen, at work, in the bathroom.
I drove all my friends and my poor husband nuts with my whining. Looking back I knew I was chewing things over. I have since decided its not a nice way to mull, especially since I noticed how people would try to change the topic when I ranted and then having failed miserably, in utter desperation they would either have a sudden need to be somewhere else, or study imaginary cobwebs in the ceiling. Soon, they wouldn't even wait till I started talking...they had figured out the crazed look that appeared on my face and would reach into their repertoire of excuses and rush away.  Meanwhile my writing buddies were already in the low forty thousand or high thirty. That was when I begged for help from them. How in the world does one get rid of a block in a hurry? I must admit, they pulled me through. The story was drilling its way through me. It just formed into words once I started listening to it. It just took a long time.

On Nov 24th I wrote to my friend "I have accepted that I am not going to make 50K, now I just want to get this story out."

Then the cork flew out and I kind of got verbal diarrhea. Almost. I never thought I would say the cliched dialogues I often hear in writers groups or from other writers: The characters insisted on saying and doing things which I hadnt intended them to. The story told itself. It is true. All true, cliched but true. Here I was, deluded that I am the master creator of the world that I was writing. Then comes along a story so compelling that it wants to be written. Characters materialized from mere wisps of foggy ideas into people with their own traits and memories and emotions. I felt I had little or no control.

My next hurdle was a scene in which one of the characters dies. Well, by then I had gotten so fond of this guy that to kill him was next to impossible for me. I was stuck again. My friends came through again with real good advice.

"If you've created a character that you love, then your readers will most likely love the character just as much as you do. This means the character's death has to MEAN SOMETHING." -- J.T. Evans

"...let yourself move on, trusting that the power of the emotion you just slathered on the page will be waiting for you on your next trip through." -- Sher Laughlin

"If it helps, many writers have trouble killing the characters they love. I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling went through hell killing some of her characters off" -- Tim Christian

Oh well, in the end, I couldn't write it. To date that's one of the scenes that's not written. I'm still trying to invoke enough viciousness to do it. But overall, the advice that helped me came through something that Sher had read someplace. When you're more than half way through, write the ending. That did it. In pinning down the ending I knew I had a complete story. I also knew what my characters had to do to reach the end.

24th to 30th Nov, I went from less than 20k to completing the challenge in a writing frenzy that surpassed my Ph.D. thesis writing. My better half pushed me (and my characters) uphill, what a task for the poor chappie. When I finished with two hours to spare, we toasted my success with a shot of liqueur. Then he promptly strode off to bed, and immediately fell fast asleep. It was a hard week. I mulled for a bit and almost fell down, exhausted. Adrenalin pumped away for a few more days.

I have the skeleton of a novel, and most of the body. No title. Far from complete. But its great to have it with me. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write. But overall, what it all meant to me was that completion required mere plodding on. 

And a gnawing, bloody irritating, never say die attitude.

1 comment:

  1. There she is, my funny, wise friend putting herself out there in eloquence and humor. Love your blog...


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