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Inkcouragement: NaNoWriMo 2018 Is A Lost Cause

"I'm going to finish this draft because Neil Gaiman says so."

Inkcouragement: NaNoWriMo 2018 Is A Lost Cause

Previous check-in: November 9th

Hey, NaNoWriMo friends! OH SHIZZ, we're more than halfway through already! This was... not a productive week for me, y'all. I've basically given up on 50K by November 30th, but I'm still going to try to write every day. Here are some of my musings and concerns from Week 2. (You can check out my progress on NaNoWriMo or even more random thoughts on Twitter.)

•  I went to see Neil Gaiman speak on Tuesday, and he answered a few audience questions about writing (and was also incredibly entertaining). For young writers, his advice is to just finish things. He was referring more about not getting caught in the cycle of endless revisions to make it perfect, but for a habitual idea-haver-but-not-necessarily-follow-througher like me, that first part really resonated with me. So even if November 30th comes and goes, I'm going to finish this draft because Neil Gaiman says so.

•  Morever, I want to finish it because I actually really want to write this story. This was supposed to be a fluffy, throwaway idea for me to challenege myself with for NaNo. (I mean, the challenge part has definitely been just that.) But the more I develop and map out the story, the more attached to it I've become -- which was the exact problem I was trying to avoid. That because I hadn't had the idea for years, I'd feel more free to do whatever I want and write shitty. But I've grown to love it so it doesn't feel disposable anymore, and it deserves the best effort that I can give. Which I don't really think my schedule during this year's NaNo has been conducive to.

•  I feel like I still need to give this first draft an end date though, or it'll never get done. I do want to finish it as soon as possible, when my enthusiasm and passion for it is still riding high, but I might make it my deadline to finish before I take a big trip in the spring.

•  I do want to get in at least one really good writing day during NaNo, though -- like, 2000+ words written in a day, let's say. (My wordiest day so far has been barely higher than the daily target.)

• Although funny enough, I had an easier time than usual writing a book report during NaNo. Maybe because I'm struggling with different kind of writing that I'm not as in my head for what I'm familiar with.

•  My concerns about procrastinating have already come to pass. I started and finished my first cross-stitch pattern (and now I'm planning to make a 3D printed base to display it), and I also tried to get inspired by watching one of my faves with a main character who's a writer, Whisper of the Heart, but then I just passed out on the couch. Productive! 

•  Related: these tweets. (But also, they are all highly accomplished authors and I am not.)




And now, for some words of Inkcouragement from FYA's literary agent extraordinaire and previous NaNoWriMo participant, Jennie!

So, we’re halfway through the month, and hopefully, you’re halfway through your target word count. Right? Yes?

[deranged laughter intensifies]

Anyone who writes is familiar with that blank page panic attack: you sit down to write, but there are no words. Where did all the words go? Where are the words, and also, what is a plot? Crap, I’ve written myself into a corner! Maybe it’s time for the characters to make out? Maybe for 25,000 more words? I could also spend at least ten thousand words describing their outfits. Yeah, that seems legit.

While I encourage all consenting characters to kiss wildly, with abandon, all the time, sometimes that just doesn’t make up an entire novel. So where do you go when you have Point A and Point B, but aren’t quite sure how to travel between them?

A few years ago, I took a YA writing seminar with Nina LaCour. Out of everything I learned, what I thought was most useful was this: think of plot and pacing in terms of questions. Let’s take Jenn Bennett’s Alex, Approximately as an example.

You have your Big Question, which is the ultimate thrust of the novel: are Bailey and Porter going to get together and stay together? You can’t answer your Big Question until the end of the novel, or else there won’t be any tension.

You’re going to have several Medium Questions, such as: when will Bailey and Porter figure out that they’ve been talking to each other online? What happens when Bailey and Porter realize that they’ve abandoned their online love interests for someone in real life? What happened in Bailey’s past to make her so paranoid about privacy?

Finally, each chapter is going to have its own smaller questions. That can be anything from “why is Bailey moving to Coronado Cove?” to “which fabulous outfit will Bailey wear today?” to “why is Bailey’s hot coworker constantly teasing her?”

The key is to go through and answer those questions, bit by bit, until you finally answer The Big One.

If you’re stuck right now, go look at your plot (or outline a general one) and reframe it in terms of questions. Now, I want you to take your 1667 words (or whatever your target goal is) for now, and decide: which questions are you going to answer in this chunk today?

Then ask yourself the most important question: which kind of ice cream or cocktail are you going to have? You’ve earned it.

How are y'all's NaNoWriMos going? What have been your challenges and successes? Let me know in the comments! 

Next check-in: November 23rd

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.