11 November 2006

Week Two

Dear NaNoWriMo Participant,
Hi there! It's Chris Baty again. And if you accepted the challenge in last week's email, you opened a comfortable word-count lead right out of the gate, increased that lead in the first weekend, and are now sailing far ahead of pace, preparing to plunge into the 20,000s.
You are looking good, feeling great, and your back is slowly accumulating an array of "kick me" signs, placed there by your fellow participants as you sprinted past us. A few signs, though, are a small price to pay for victory. And you *are* going to be victorious. If you are a day or less from 20K, you have everything it takes to win, and win big. Keep it up. Don't slow down. We admire you, even if you made us feel so bad about ourselves that we had to put those signs on you.
But this email is not for those doing exceptionally well. It's for the rest of us---authors with underdeveloped word counts, overdeveloped novel-guilt complexes, and sensational procrastinating abilities. Because we are the ones who are going to begin having serious misgivings about this whole escapade in the next seven days.
Because it turns out we are too busy to do this.
Or because a crisis has brought some novel-eating turmoil into our lives.
Or because our stories are really, really bad, and we're wondering why we're sacrificing so much of our time to produce a consistently crappy book.
It all adds up to the fabled Week Two Wall---a low-point of energy, enthusiasm, and joie de novel that strikes most NaNoWriMo participants between days 7 and 14. This is when our inner editors, who largely turned a blind eye to our novel flailings in Week One, return to see how things are going. And their assessments are never kind.
The plot is draggy. The characters are boring. The dialogue is pointless, and the prose has all the panache of something dashed off by a distracted kindergartner.
If you're feeling any of these things---or find yourself starting to feel them this week---know that nothing is wrong. In fact, you're likely on track for a great NaNoWriMo. Just lower your head, pick up your pace, and write straight into the maw of your misgivings. If you are thinking about quitting, DO NOT DO IT IN WEEK TWO.
If you have to quit, do it in Week Three.
I'm serious.
Because if you quit in Week Two, you're going to miss an amazing moment---the moment when your novel begins to click. You'll miss a genius plot twist you can't foresee right now that will suddenly elevate your book from a distressing mess to a sort-of-tolerable mess. And then you'll miss the euphoric breakthrough that follows that twist, when your book improves itself all the way to not-half-bad.
Not-half-bad will make you scream, it feels so good.
And you know what? The more you write, the better it gets. So make it a priority to write in torrents this week. Allow your characters to change, and have change forced upon them. Follow your intuition, even if it leads away from where you thought your book was heading. And know that writing a novel is like building a car. Your only job this month is to create a clunky machine that will eventually move people from one place to another. If your beast rolls at all at this point, you're doing great. Pretty prose, snappy dialogue, brilliant metaphors---they're all part of the high-gloss paint job and finishing touches we put on *after* the body is built.
In December, we'll have nothing but time for adding flames to our hoods and airbrushing a majestic eagle or pair of sunrise stallions on the sides of our new rides. For now, the 20,000s are calling, and we can't get distracted by the small stuff if we're going to get there. In the challenging confines of Week Two, our books will truly be built. Characters will evolve. Plots will unfold. It's going to be difficult at times, but once we make it into (and out of) the 20,000s, everything gets much easier. And envious tales of our literary feat-in-the-making will begin circulating amongst our friends, family, and co-workers.
At which point, we'll probably find a note or two on our backs as well.
It'll be awesome.
Keep plowing onward, brave writer! Good things are coming. I'll be back next Wednesday for some thoughts on Week Three.
Dreaming about my airbrushed eagle,
8400 words and counting

1 comment:

Linus said...

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can ...