Though at the close of November the voyage of this particular novel idea is far from complete, I made several personal observations during this year’s NaNoWriMo that should help me plot a course toward finishing it and will help me prepare for my next adventure.
Observation One: Writing without a solid outline is less fun than writing with one.
I can understand the draw of writing by the seat of one’s pants. I imagine it is akin to riding a literary rollercoaster or taking what amounts to a compositional drug-trip. Who knows where the plot will twist today? Let it flow. Who knows where the characters will lead? Follow them. Pansters claim it works and who am I to question it?
I just do not have the mental and creative constitution for it. This month I started writing with only “The Sentence” (30 words) for direction, and not the outline I usually create. I did not enjoy the process of mental grasping-about that followed. I just need more structure than most. That being said, I am always open to my muse and inspiration. I am not slavishly locked into anything. It is, after all, my subconscious doing the talking and I need to make sure my conscious is listening.
Regardless, from now on, at the very minimum, I’ll have an outline finished before I start, whether its a skeletal Hero’s Journey, a version of Freytag’s Pyramid, a thumb-nail Three-Act Structure, a modified Kishotenketsu or simply a bloody list of what’s next, but no more vague idea for a situation and a character or two and feeling for the rest as I go along.
Observation Two: True “cheering sections” are rare.
Writing can be such a lonely effort. It is a complicated, long term and protracted process paramount to living a monastic life style. That’s why true cheering sections are as important as they are rare.
I had a close friend who used to ask about my writing whenever we exchanged emails or the occasional phone call. Her questions were always story centered. What was I working on now or how was the story going? Once in awhile she’d ask me to read to her, but only if she felt I was ready. She often signed off with a positive, “I can’t wait to read it!” or something along those lines. What I found wonderful was her ability to communicate her happy faith that I would eventually finish my book, her constant focus on story and her obvious desire to encourage me to keep writing.
I didn’t realize how important or deeply effecting that kind of encouragement was until it was gone—people change, relationships change, life changes. Regardless, she will always have my undying gratitude for the long-ago gift of her animated interest.
During my NaNo effort, I had plenty of support from relatives, friends and students, mostly in terms of giving me uninterrupted writing time, which was much appreciated! And to those who contributed financially to the NaNo-cause, YOU ARE CHAMPIONS! There was however an absence of any interest in what I was writing or how it was going, let alone any curiosity about hearing any bit of it that I might want to share. As sad as that was for me, I reminded myself that I compose without it all the time; indeed, I have for most of my writing life. In the end, writing is a solo gig. A cheering section is nice but not required.
Observation Three: Anyone who is not a writer rarely understands what the process involves.
It is amazing how many folk think that being part of the “cheering section” means advising: “Why don’t you just finish it and send it to a publisher?” It is also amazing how many of these people offer their brand of support without really understanding that it is not as easy as “…just sayin’.”
I love these people and they obviously love and care about me, but they need to do their homework or trust that I have. There is so much more to writing than simply recording the story and sending it off to a publisher.
Observation Four: I am far from finished.
Though I knew this going in, it has struck me yet again that finishing a manuscript involves so much more than composing 50k. I have an incredible amount of work yet to do. 50k is, at best, only about a third of the way through the first draft of my manuscript idea. Further, I foresee, at the very least, one full rewrite with multiple revisions and edits beyond that will be required. Once I’m satisfied that this manuscript is indeed something I want published and that I have caught all flaws I can detect, then I’ll take it to a group of local published authors or submit it to Holly Lisle’s very strict and professional revision regime the result of which will involve be even more changes, additions and rewrites
I’m sure! This is what it takes to produce something worth reading, something others might want to read.
Observation Five: I cannot “publish” too early.
The internet has changed the publishing world in nearly the same way it has changed the recording industry and it is a route I intend to take. Artists are no longer required to kowtow to the whims of a massive, labyrinthine and aloof monopoly. They no longer have to sacrifice control over their own work or cater to a subjective middle man who is himself but a puppet of pop-culture. The flip-side however, is that without the more positive aspects of such a filter—amazing and knowledgeable agents, discerning and intuitive editors, demanding and dedicated publishers—self-published writers have produced a lot, A LOT, of poor writing—a substandard glut that must be weeded so as to find true flowers worth reading.
There are NaNo-ers, God bless their little pea-picking hearts, who having written their 50k do a minimal spell-check and, with the encouragement of proud yet ill-informed supporters, add their work to the wild garden with a right-click. I will not do this. Quality is the only thing that will make my writing stand out among the crop of millions (I kid you not) and the only way to achieve such is through hard work, heart breaking honesty and a ruthlessness akin to a combat medic’s triage—see observation four.
I can just hear those who know me querying, “Only five?” No. LOL! Not by a long shot, but these are the five that survived the storm-tossed sea of my seething brain to find a safe harbor after two weeks. Now, onward toward the farthest shore.