It’s the second full week of NaNo, and we’re inching up on the halfway point. For many of us, that means we’re hitting the middle of our manuscript and reality has set in.
What To Do in the Middle
What DO we do in the middle of a manuscript?
Well, that depends. What makes sense for our story?
And that’s where, sometimes, our brains go spung.
Don’t Trust Boredom: It’s a Block
If we get suddenly bored with our story, that’s likely a creative block and not actual boredom. Don’t give up! Don’t turn on the television, or numb out on Facebook, or read a book. Keep going. This is the point at which our inner critic has woken up to the fact that no, we really were serious, and yeah, we’re writing this here book thing and holy crap what do you mean you think you can write a novel? Who do you think you are?
You Are Too a Writer!
Ignore all the voices that say you’re not a writer. Who are you kidding? You’re a dilettante! You never finish anything. Who wants to read what you have to say? All the good plots have already been written. There are too many books out there, don’t bother. IGNORE ALL THAT. It doesn’t matter where it came from – Mom, Dad, Kids, Uncles, Aunts, Siblings, Teachers, Bosses, the Internet… KEEP GOING.
A writer is someone who writes.
The definition is in the action. The action defines the definition. If you write, you’re a writer. Ipso facto. (That’s just Latin fancy talk for “by that very fact or act.”) (You can use that, if you need to, to defend your nascent writerlyness: “I’m writing, ipso facto, I’m a writer!”)
The only way to get to the end is to keep putting words after one another, occasionally followed by a period. Or, if you’re me, an overabundance of exclamation points. (No, I’m not kidding; ask my editors.) But the story that you’re trying to tell will not reveal itself to you unless you keep writing. Quite frequently, it will only reveal itself after a bunch of what feels like wrong turns. You put Bob in a bar, he sees Lucille, but then you realize he’s gay and Lucille’s a black drag queen, but the biker gang from scene two is going to come in and they’re going to want to shoot Lucille and Bob can’t have that and…
Don’t be afraid to take wrong turns. Don’t be afraid to put a porcupine in your story. “Bob looked down and froze. Standing not two feet in front of him was one pissed off porcupine. What had pissed off the porcupine wasn’t immediately apparent, but Bob was damned sure the porcupine was pissed at him and he didn’t know what to do about. It’s not like he could pick the thing up, pet it and snuggle it, and apologize. Of course, he couldn’t really do that with his cat, either, but at least Mister Buckles didn’t stay mad for long… and the porcupine looked like it had a lot of endurance. Bob walked forward and…” What next? “What next?” is your friend. If you’re stuck in one place, drop back a couple pages and find some action, then take it another direction. “Bob turned the corner too fast for the porcupine to see. Good. He lost the little spiky rodent. But then…”
Interview your characters. “So, Bob, it’s me, Noony. I’m volunteering for NaNoWriMo, and I’m writing this article for Wrimos about what to do when you get stuck in your story. So tell me, Bob, what’s it like to be a porcupine?” “To be pointed, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. On the one claw, you’ve got all these quills. But on the other claw, you can’t really cuddle with your loved ones, now can you?” “Good point. So tell me, Bob, where do you think this article should go?” “Tell them to keep writing. Just sit down and write what you think your story’s about. Keep going, and add more stuff. Write crap. Don’t worry about grammar. If you hear a voice in your head say it sucks, let that voice write for a while, until it runs out of things to say, then go back to writing your story. All words count during NaNo, so put all the words down on the page.”
See? You heard it here first, wrimos.
Bob the Porcupine Says, “Keep Writing.”
So unless you want a face full of quills, you know what to do.
Keep the faith. Fifty thousand, we’re coming for you.
- E.E. Cummings
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