Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Forays In Fiction: NaNo Homestretch

There's 49 hours left and I have just over 4K to deliver so it looks like I'm going to make it. I don't want to spend too much time dithering here obviously. See yesterday's TT post for a mini overview of my novel as it stands. I just wanted to report my status. But I also wanted to open a discussion--mostly with myself--about the pros and cons of doing NaNo.

My husband groaned during the last week of October, expressing for the first time how he had come to dread November because of what doing NaNo did to me. So I made a conscious effort to keep my stressing and obsessing to myself and not to put NaNo work ahead of opportunities for us to do things together. I also tried real hard to graciously share laptop time with him on weekday evenings and weekend mornings. I haven't asked him for a 'report card' on how well I succeeded in keeping my stress from spilling over onto him but my sense is that I did fairly well except for between the 16th and 19th as I was coming out from under the worst of the cold I came down with on my birthday, finding myself over 20K behind.

I discussed elsewhere how I figured out how to make it up by switching from standard scene writing to 'journaling' for my characters--giving them a forum to rant or ramble in their own voice about whatever was bugging or jazzing them. I posted a snippet of one of these last Friday that had surprised me by being near story quality.

The rest is pretty much a mess though and I feel a bit guilty contemplating counting it. But after all it was one of the pep talk letters from Chris Baty where he talked about 'word-padding' by having characters quoting full lyrics to songs or even sections of the phone book, and using all your 'sprinting skills' that gave me the 'journaling' idea because the closest I ever come to sprinting in writing is while journaling where I've often made single entries topping 3K and even on occasion 5K.

Then I figured if quoting lyrics and phone books was OK then so should going into my own journal and blog archives for the rants and rambles related to economics and politics to find some ready made content for my character's thoughts. A part of me still feels like this is 'cheating' though. Because even though they are my own words they weren't composed in November. Yet, it kept me in the game after coming so close to quitting.

It kept me intensely engaged with my story and as the days go by in which I don't miss a single one, the intensity escalates. If only I had reached this place in mind and spirit the second week of November so that I could look forward to two more weeks of this. Now, I fear the same thing will happen to this novel as happened to the last two of my NaNo novels--both of which I was equally enthused with by the last few days and both of which I let drop soon after. Two years ago I never opened the files for Storyteller's Spouse to work on them again. Last year I did keep working on Spring Fever at a much less feverish pace through January and into February because I was participating in 70 Days of Sweat challenge concurrently with NaNo. But then it fell by the way as well.

Both of those novel's files are a sloppy mess as Mobile Hopes has become as well. And this is the conundrum. Working under the pressure of writing challenges leads to messy files that I start to avoid like creditor's phone calls but working without the encouragement and motivation associated with the challenges leads to, well, mostly empty files or at least little more then prissy word counts of under 1K per week.

I didn't catch the announcement for the current 70 Days challenge until it was several days underway so I didn't sign up this time which means that I am on my own after midnight Sunday night. One of the things I'm asking myself is if the challenges are crutches that I should wean myself off of. But I don't think it is as black and white as that. I know that one of my issues is a perfectionism and insistence on control that pretty much strangles the muses. That is why the intensity of NaNo always gifts me with the makings of a story that shimmers and glows in my mind but sits in my files growing like penicillin in a petrie dish--a proliferating mass, a grotesque mess.

So I don't think bowing out of challenges is the answer. But I do need to find somewhere, the motivation and discipline to stay with the story after the challenges end--to finish a first draft and then face the mess and wrangle it into something readable, something like a novel.

But since there is no challenges to keep me in line now I think maybe a substitute is in order: A publicly stated commitment to stay engaged with Mobile Hopes as close to daily as possible until July 4 2009 at which time I will reassesses. I will report here each Friday as to my progress and post snippets occasionally. But I will have little to say about word count.

Progress will be measured by other criteria. Like the number of days in which I spent a minimum of thirty minutes engaged with the story files; how many days in a row I engage with the story files without missing one; level of enthusiasm; the mini-successes of breaking through a block or untangling a snag.

Not every Friday Foray will be focused on Mobile Hopes but those that are not will at least have an update tacked onto the top or the bottom of the post.

And while I'm at it, I will make another commitment: to concurrently return to Crystal's story and work toward a finished draft of it as well. Her story has been percolating in my psyche again since early October and I resisted reengaging with it because of NaNo. I definitely don't want to wait until after July to get back to her story. What I am eager to try is to take the character journaling concept into all my WIP beginning with Crystal.

I might as well add one more commitment: to reengage with last year's NaNo novel Spring Fever at the research level by the end of January. One of the reasons, if not the primary reason, I let that one fall away was because I had made the story dependent on a dozen or more things that I had only a vague or shallow knowledge about. One of my Friday Foray posts before the end of January will delineate the needed research and map out a study plan.

This thought is just now occurring to me: I wonder if anyone else would be interested in a self-designed fiction writing challenge along similar lines. If so, I could create a Linky for these Friday Foray posts. I now have the ability to have multiple Mr Linky. So if I hear from even three who would be interested in joining in I will do that. Your post doesn't have to be on Friday's. Any post in the week before or after my Friday post goes up that discusses a fiction WIP in terms of commitment, progress or even dismay would qualify as would snippets or outtakes. And by fiction I include short stories, plays, and screenplays as well as novels in any genre. The point is to have encouragement and accountability.

So much for not dithering too long at this post. : D

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