Pushing Through

One of the worst things about writing is when you get stuck.  I mean you know where the story is going but the scene you are working on is being stubborn.  It could be that the characters don’t like what you are saying about them at that moment or it could just be you.

I go with me having an issue.  Sometimes I think it’s because I’m not quite sure how the scene is supposed to go.  I have a basic idea but the characters run me through the scene not the other way around.

But I have found that the thing to do is push through.  Write the scene and worry about fixing it later.  There are many who would disagree but going back later might not even happen if you keep going with the story.  The scene was started for a reason, so figure out the basic reason why and write.

Don’t worry about if the writing is good, it won’t be.  Real writing happens when you edit anyhow, not when you write.  Just push through the scene and you will not have this nagging keeping you from writing the rest of the story.

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Do You Know Your Characters

I have been writing along for a while, creating some new characters who have names, and for some, personalities.  I don’t have a file of characters ready to drop into my story as needed.  It’s something I am considering doing, at least with names because that’s the hardest part for me, but currently I just go with it.

I have to admit, that actually works fairly well for me.  Since I don’t outline my story ahead of time, I get all kinds of twists and turns in the middle of the story.  Yes I know where the story is starting and where the ending is going to be.  I have a general idea of what will happen in the middle but I leave it at that because, well my characters do things I didn’t forsee which so far has made the story better, or at the very least more interesting.

But this raises the question of if I actually know my characters before I start writing.  Truth be told, not really.  I start with a name, race, a few details and then let them tell me who they are.  Some would say that’s stupid because how can you put obstacles in your characters paths if you don’t know their fears, desires, needs, etc.  Well sorry but if I had tried to do that with some of my characters I would have been shoehorning them into the story and it would be very forced.  I think the way I do it makes them more real.

For instance my first book attempt was built on characters from the role-playing group I DM’d.  The story was all me but the characters were all them.  Some of those were more vivid than others because of how they were played in the game.  But it wasn’t until I started writing about them that I realized a few things.  I have one set of brothers where one of them is bitter and distrustful.  He’s an ass let me tell you and I hated that character so much when we played.  It made for a great game and he made that first book attempt awesome to write.  Partway through I had the other brother talking to another character.  They are both elves from the same area.  I discovered that my elves have a ritual they perform when they come of age as adults.  And the reason the one elf is so distrustful is that his mother married a human who killed her so he doesn’t want to return for this ritual.

When I figured that out I was seriously shocked.  It made him not seem like such a jerk anymore.  I still write him as an ass to a lot of people but I understand why now.

That of course got me thinking about who really knows all about their characters before they write.  I can’t imagine that every writer knows everything.  Discovery is great.  I love reading things about characters I would never have guessed and writing them the same way is a blast.  So I don’t think I’ll worry too much about knowing every little detail about my characters.  They will tell me what they want me to know when they want me to know it.

The Halfway Point

Today is November 15th.  As of today I should have 25,000 words written for my novel this month.  I don’t but I am very close to that.  I am taking a break tonight, which I think is a good thing.  I went into this novel with an idea that it would start here, end here with this event, and my characters would venture through this area in between.  Well for the most part, that is what is going on but there have been several twists along the way.  I have got into the head of two characters who were just “there” in the last novel.  I have introduced some new characters and had at least one do something that I didn’t intend when they were created.  I have to admit I now find this character intriguing and just might keep them longer than they were originally planned.  My novel is meandering along to the conclusion I first started with, its just taking several turns to get there.

That’s how it is too.  I know lots of people say you have to outline your novel before you write.  I can’t, no matter how much I try.  As I stated above I know  where I’m starting and where its ending and a general idea of what will happen in between but my novels seem to take on a life of their own and things happen I didn’t expect.  For me an outline would be like trying to shoehorn an elephant into a bottle.  Yes I could do an outline and then deviate as needed but then I’d have to redo the entire outline and when I’m writing I don’t want to have to worry about that.  I have enough to worry about while writing.  And I like not doing an outline because when my novel does take a turn, I can explore it easier.

With 25,000 words left to write I am looking at my novel and thinking, is 50,000 going to be enough.  What makes that statement even crazier is that last year I never thought I’d get to 50K.  This year I knew I would but now I worry I won’t have the story finished.

Welcome to NaNoWriMo

So you have never heard of NaNoWriMo?  You know what, that’s ok.  I have known what it is for at least ten years and still hear people ask what it stands for.  There are many who when they hear what the acronym means know it, they have just never hear the actual “title” before.  Well it stands for Nation Novel Writing Month. 

Held every November people across the nation (and I think across the world) attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in only 30 days.  While this sounds impossible it really boils down to writing 1667 words per day, every day of the month.  (This actually puts you 10 words over the minimum but hey what is 10 extra words when you are going for 50K?). 

However it actually isn’t as simple as writing 1667 words every day.  Why?  Because life happens and there are days when writing is impossible, other commitments take precedence.  So how do you make it to the 50K mark?  You schedule writing time, figure out the day you KNOW you won’t be writing (like Thanksgiving and Black Friday), add a couple extra days just in case and with the total you have left over, divide that by 50,000 to see how many words you need to write each writing day to finish on time.

This is the third year I have attempted NaNoWriMo.  Last year I did finish a novel.  This year I am well on my way to doing so again.  The first time however I flopped, big time.  What made that attempt worse was I had a 15,000 word novel started that I was trying to finish.  I couldn’t commit myself to the intense writing and thus it did not get done (in fact that novel was until recently still in the works 15 years later at 30,000 plus words.  It has now been put in the “not to be used” pile.  Don’t get me wrong, the stuff in it will be used, just not as the individual novel it initially was intended to be).

Many people know this month by what it used to be called; simply NaNo.  It stood for the same thing back then but I’m sure Apple or the organizers who run the NaNoWriMo site did not want a lawsuit so the name was changed.  Oh you did not realize there was a site for this month of insanity?  Yup (www.nanowrimo.org).  They have all kinds of forums for help, you can become buddies with people to keep track of each other’s progress (and encourage), or just keep track of yourself.  You update your word count daily (or as often as you want).  There is a stats page which will show how many words you have written that day, your overall total, how you rate with the 1667 words-per-day amount they offer to finish, your average words per day, where you will finish if you keep up the current writing pace (this can be bad or good), and some other things.  For someone like me, it helps push me where I need to be pushed.

NaNoWriMo is actually not for everyone.  I say this because everyone has different writing styles and some people just don’t do well with writing now and editing later.  That’s ok.  It is nice to do it though because after that month of writing like crazy, you can say you have written a novel (or two or five depending on how many years you keep at it).  And while the idea is to write a complete 50,000 word novel in that single month, there are people who take previous started work and finish it.  While this is considered “cheating” the discipline needed tends to be stronger when you have a network to keep you motivated.

So welcome to the insanity (although we are almost a third of the way in) that is NaNoWriMo.