The upside of being home with the flu is that between the Nyquil and the low-grade fever, you get to thinking – a lot! And with lots of pretty colors …
As a survivor and winner in this year’s NaNoWriMo (you will all get to be winners once I do some re-writes and edits, but that is another blog) I considered the lessons learned and decided through my cough suppressant haze to share them with you. I confess that I am borrowing liberally from a great article by Robert J. Sawyer, the renowned Science Fiction author whose portfolio I envy greatly. He in turn was commenting on the late, great Robert Heinlein’s Rules on Writing. (http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm)
Are you kidding, you ask? I’m a writer; of course I am going to write. Sawyer’s article even says it sounds ridiculously obvious. But you see, that’s the problem: too many of us think and think and think and think some more about what we’re going to write, yet we never get a word onto paper. If you feel in your heart of hearts that you are a writer, then you have no excuse. Remember, writing is a passion: it is an obsession. You have to know that the dishes need washing and that report is due in an hour, yet your mind freely wanders to a plot line or a new character (oh, and just a side note: do the darned report, free wanderings won’t pay your rent!)
Okay, so this is actually where you get hung up. You’ve told your friends all about the story that’s inside your head and dying to get out. They’re about to tie you up, gag you, and toss you in a closet if you tell it one more time (and what you do at parties is your own business, but let’s stick to writing here.) Here’s my recommendation: write the scene that can’t wait. So what if it isn’t the first thing that happens in your story: write it. Don’t edit, don’t criticize, don’t stop because the right word isn’t coming up – go, go, go! You can check things later when the time is right, do your re-edits, and see where it will fit in your overall plot. No plot? Try writing the next page after that scene and let things go where they will. Bet you get a plot going very soon after.
Don’t just start – finish!
Ever hear the joke about the mother whose teenage daughter plucked out all her hair, but the mom is proud because “at least she finally finished something she started?” Yeah – I don’t recommend hair removal on such a grand scale, but I do recommend finishing. Start by finishing a scene. Then a Chapter. Then a section, such as the opening. You’ll find that you keep going. It’s not nearly so difficult if you take things in small chunks and grow them. And don’t be afraid to change things such as your plot: good stories rarely are completed the way the author originally envisioned them.
Don’t be afraid to track what you have in mind. Expect six, quarter filled journals for every novel (trust me, every two months you’ll find the “perfect journal.” It happens. It’s a creative thingy.) Think of your plot in terms of a main plot, and at least two sub plots. Do a brief description of the events of your story from each character’s point of view. Nobody sees an accident the same as the guy next to him – and neither will your characters. This is really handy if you have a villain and you need to understand that character’s motivations: see everything from their eyes.
There’s no such thing as finished!
Sorry to tell you this, but the lag time between finishing novel number one and starting number two should never be more than three days. Seriously! This is your obsession and you don’t need some brooding, skinny guy in a commercial to tell you what that means (and it isn’t a scent!) Your brain and heart are still working, right? No need to stop your pen or keyboard. I know this will sound funny but you will need the distraction from the post partum depression every writer gets. Heck! I’m often starting another project before the last one is done. Don’t stop your passion, keep it moving.
Okay, more later, but I thought this was a good way to mark the end of the 2012 NaNoWriMo and to get you in the mood for 2013.
2 thoughts on “Rules and tons of cough syrup – wheee!”
I hope you feel better soon. I have many friends with winter bugs right now. Your rules are just what I needed to hear. I don’t have any problems with rule one or three, but I definitely need to work on two. My stories tend to fizzle at the end and I give up and start something else. My new focus is on completing the stories lurking in my laptop and kicking them out of the nest. Thanks for the motivational help.
I was cruising through comments and posts and such, and re-read your comment. Thank you, by the way. Perhaps you could try ending your stories on a cliff hanger note? Or the set up of the next book? If it’s grasping and tackling the ending that causes the fizzle, see if you can’t generate some last second bang! If it’s a matter of getting the darned thing written, and you already know how it will end, then try the ritual trick of creating specific steps to take when writing: set aside the same time every day, wear a hat that you will wear only when writing or working on a story in your head (tiaras are good if you like them,) and arrange props, beverages, and music in your writing area so that starting is easy. Can’t tell you how many times I plan to start, take too much time getting organized, and lose focus without ever writing a word. See if that helps and good luck!