Getting Over The Hump

And so we slide fully into Week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and perhaps your journey is going considerably better than mine (if you have written your daily words, or even if you just don’t regret picking the thing you chose for NaNo, then yes, your journey is vastly improved upon mine). But perhaps, even if this is the case, you’re still wondering how the hell you’re going to get another 30-odd k out of your tale, or you’re still not at all certain how you’re going to finish this, even if you’re full of ideas and everything. Or perhaps you’re not worried at all, and just joining in the blog-reading of NaNo and the procrastination and seeing the suffering of your fellow participants. Either way, all are welcome here 😉

I think Week 2 is the scariest part of NaNoWriMo, because it’s about Week 2 that it becomes clear that 50k is a LOT of words. Unless you’ve been hit by that wonderful literary lightning, or are really, really good at this, and have hit the word count already. It happens. Not for quite as high a percentage as following the NaNo hashtag on Twitter might have you believe, but it does happen.

The nice thing is that I still have no doubt that I can hit my 50k. I know I can abandon all pretension at writing quality and write quantity if I must. Last night, I was certain that I ought never to touch this book again, for fear of ruining it perpetually, but I made myself do another hundred words, and then that inevitably turned into 500, and even if my count is still now only just over 11k, I’m not worried, that’s fine.

What worries me more. curiously, is getting to 35k. 35k seems to be the number that plenty of people fail at, also, have you noticed? It’s so near, yet still quite far. For me, that’s the hump of NaNo. The halfway point is simply horrifying – you realise just exactly how bloody long 50k can be, and the idea of having as far to go again is brain-numbing, unless, of course, you really do have that surfeit of ideas. But at 35k, you are over the hump. You’ve the bulk of your book and you can quite easily finish it simply by extending every scene you’ve already written by a few words (this is quite a fun tactic which I do recommend if you get heartily stuck once you’re over the hump – it can make for some quite entertaining twists and revelations…).

At 35k, you can see what you’re doing, see your destination. That’s scary, sometimes it’s almost as horrifying as being ‘only’ halfway, but it is a reality, rather than a panic, and as with all horror, it’s easier to get through when you know what you’re dealing with, rather than dealing with the ghost that is fear itself.

And 35k doesn’t even come until Week 3. So, much as above, knowing it’s so much easier to get through a panic about something you can see, rather than something you can’t, I am steadfastly refusing to acknowledge any feelings or panics I have at all until I’m over the hump, and can really, truly see what it is that I’ve done. And then if, as last year, I still hate it, it doesn’t matter for it is only the work of a few more days to achieve the goal. The best part of NaNo is when you are on the downhill slope, flying towards your goal, knowing you’re going to meet it. At that point, you can disregard any emotions or fears altogether.

But that part doesn’t come until you get over the hump. And for me, as I say, that’s at 35k. So I’m aiming right squarely for 35k and I’m not going to be scared and I’m not going to stop doing the million other things that have suddenly started to seem so attractive during this November because that too is part of NaNo and its joy – you learn that it is possible to accomplish infinitely more than you thought you could. And, even if you knew you could do NaNo, sometimes you get to also be surprised at all the other things you can accomplish simply by spending time at the keyboard not only riffling through Tumblr, but also writing all the other things, or chatting with other writers, or making friends (or enemies) in communities you only just happened upon.

It’s a great month, is NaNoWriMo. Fear not. We’ll all be over the hump soon enough.

 

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Planning vs. Pantsing

It’s the infinite NaNoWriMo question. I’ve tried both, and would say I’ve had considerably more success pantsing, but that planning is easier. Make sense? About as much sense as the process of making things up and writing things down can, I suppose. Here’s my pro-con list, in which each method’s pro has its con in the opposing method’s pro. Eh.

PANTSING:

  • No prep work. Perfect for the lazy/disorganised.
  • No restrictions. Want to flip from technobabble to dinosaurs? No problem! Gritty inner-city modern-slice-of-life to Tudor period drama? Go for it! (Already I am constructing both of these stories in my mind.)
  • The imagination is completely free! It’s so much easier to be creative when you have no walls and boundaries.
  • Writers’ block? Write something, anything at all! You can always work out how it makes sense with your story later, and who knows where that’ll take it?

PLANNING:

  • Lots of prep work. Great for when you want to get going early, or if you have so many ideas you’re scared of forgetting something.
  • Enough restrictions for the brain to function properly. You’ve got a great, linear story idea? It probably needs, shock horror, a storyline. Yes, you might not know whodunnit yet, but you’ll want a vague idea of how you – and the reader – is going to find out.
  • The imagination gets to do the cream of its work – the colouring in, if you like, of creativity. It’s so much easier to be specific when you have a nice neat outline.
  • Writers’ block? No problem! You can just pick up the next neat bit of outline and get going on that, with no worries that it won’t work, because you already have a map for where you’re going and what you’re doing!

So, even with this tiny, four-point list you can see that it’s all much of a muchness, and that the main thing is, still, just putting one word after another. My best advice, if you’re not sure which you are, or if you’re one and are rapidly, at this end of Week 1 phase of NaNoWriMo wishing you were the other, why not try a tiny switch? If you’ve been pantsing up until now, take precisely two minutes to construct yourself an outline. Then confine yourself to that for exactly one day’s writing and see how it goes. If you’ve had a fine plan and you’ve run out out at 10,001 words, or you’re bored of everything about it and wish your characters would jump off a cliff/form a knitting circle/time travel already, hide your outlines and character assumptions from yourself for the day and write a sidebar, a prequel, a parallel universe, hey, why not stick them in space for a minute and see what happens?

It’s not original advice, but then, there really is no original advice when it comes to writing, and if you’re not one of the wonderfully inspiring/soul-crushing types who are powering into the 20ks and beyond already and tweeting gleefully about it, you might well be procrastinating exactly as much as I am and trawling the blogs of fellow NaNoers looking to be told once more things you already know in order to simply keep going. So, I’m just doing my bit for the community here, k?

Happy NaNo; here’s to Week 2!

(P.S. full disclosure: I’m well behind at only 7,676 words. But I’ve got plenty of time to catch up today, and no fear for it.)