11/12/2005

NaNoWriMo Notes 7: Into The Homestretch

Saturday November 12, 2005, 2:30 am. 18 days 21 hours and 30 minutes until deadline Word Count: 34, 155. 15, 845 until goal of 50,000 Well I'm nearing the end of the second full week of NaNoWriMo and I think I've cracked the back of the monster, gone over the hump, the end's in sight, home is where the heart is: okay the last cliché didn't fit but what the hell, you're not going to hold that against me are you? I think I'm allowed a little leeway on the silliness front considering how well it's going. Yesterday I was looking at the word count when it rang up, and I realised that I had significantly less then 20,000 words to write, and for the first time I think that I genuinely believed that I would complete this process. That was really cool because when I set out on this adventure I had no idea how it would go. If you go back and read any of the earlier posts in this series you'll see how I rattled off all the usual doubts about whether or not I had it "in me" to actually write 50,000 words in a month. Could I maintain the story and the characters and my own interest in them for a long enough time? I had nothing on paper; no outline, no character sketches, not even names for the various races, countries, and people involved. With none of the props that professional writers use at my disposal I'm totally relying on inspiration as each day of writing starts. Ironically the days that I've discovered hardest, in that I struggle with getting the story out, are the ones where I have left off in the middle of a chapter. I seem to work my best when I can start the day completely fresh with a new idea. It's funny because I know other people deliberately like to leave off in the middle of something so that they can pick up where they left off. I actually feel impatient and want to finish it because it feels like yesterday's thought, and I want to get on with telling the story, and my next thought. It's like I've skipped ahead in the story, and have to go back and read something I already know has happened because I had read ahead into the next chapter. This week has also been a bit more of a slog for me. In the first week I seemed to be able to sit down and the words would just pour out without me thinking. I never had to search for the right phrase, the appropriate word, it was always there waiting for me to use it. I haven't changed my attitude towards the work, it's still the same devil may care what the result is, but there hasn't been quite the same sense of flow. I'm assuming it's what is referred to as the second week slump. The adrenalin isn't pumping quite so high, the initial enthusiasm for the story has started to wane, and you have to become serious about the project. I've noticed this in the past in the novels that I've worked on and not finished. I have trouble maintaining momentum. I start off fast and enthusiastically and just sort of peter out. I didn't have the discipline required to work through the parts that I hadn't foreseen having to write. Let me try explaining that. When I have an idea for writing a piece of fiction I generally visualise what's going to happen in a general sort of way. I can see how the characters all get together and have an idea of what they look like. I know what they are going to be doing at key points in the story up to and including the end. It's all the spots in between, the transition scenes, which up to now have been my nemesis. Since I already knew all the information about the characters in my head, who they were, their motivations etc. It was almost boring to write about and develop them for the reader to get to know. It's like the whole starting in the middle of the chapter thing, I already knew what was coming next and was impatient to get on with the story. I needed to come up with a way to make those moments interesting to write about and to read. I came up with two ways: one has been to incorporate flashbacks to bring out some of the back-story, and the other has been to create situations where I as the writer can have fun with character. In theatre we used to call it giving someone business, in other words finding them something to do that helps bring out their characteristics. Finding out that I could continue telling the story while disseminating information to a potential reader made it far easier for me to deal with the lag of energy that always used to assail me as I hit the 20,000-word mark in my writing. To be honest I felt all along that was going to be my biggest obstacle when it came to completing the 50,000 words. Last time we were talking I mentioned how I found that I wasn't even aware of what I was doing, and the words were just pouring out of me like a fountain. Obviously that hasn't been the case as much this week, although it still has happened. However, something new has begun to happen, and it actually makes me more confidant about the long-term possibilities for this manuscript that I'm working on. I've been trying to put together some interview questions for a couple of authors, whose book I've recently read and reviewed for B.C., since the beginning of November. We haven't set any timeline for it, but I was hoping to have the questions ready to send off to them next week. But I've discovered a problem and I had to write them apologizing, but would they mind delaying it. In my e-mail I said: "I'm spending half my time living in a made up version of 14th century Spain during the end of the Muslim occupation, writing about Jews and gypsies and I can't get my head anywhere else." I've become immersed in the story to the extent that I'm not just thinking about it all the time, but I have such a firm picture of everything in my head that I can't ever get it out of my mind. In my idle moments when I'm not writing I'm walking down the streets of the city their currently living in; experiencing the atmosphere, watching the people, and listening to the gossip on the street corners. I genuinely feel like I'm living in two separate realities right now: this one where I sit at a keyboard and write, and the one I write about when I sit at the keyboard. I guess it makes sense, how else could I report on what's happening there if I wasn't there to see what was going on? What's even more interesting is how it seeps over into my real world. I was sitting on the edge of my bed before falling asleep last night, and all of a sudden the tune to an old Yiddish folk song popped into my head. I don't know how old "Dona Dona" is but it seemed so appropriate for the story that I'm going to probably use it for chapter heads, or part divisions in the book. The lyrics are simple enough, a farmer taking a cow to market, but it's about freedom and it was a song of the Jewish resistance in World War Two. I've always made a connection between this song and the Jewish Diaspora. ( dispersal, or exile is the easiest definition)
Calves are easily bound and slaughtered/Never knowing the reason why./ But whoever treasures freedom,/Like the swallow must learn to fly./How the winds are laughing/They laugh with all their might/Laugh and laugh the whole day through/And half the summer's night. "Dona Dona"
Since that's what I'm writing about it makes sense that I would think of things connected to the topic. What I find interesting about this incident is first of all I have very little talent musically and for me to remember a tune one day to the next is quite a achievement. I haven't heard this song in over twelve years, but last night not only did I think about it, but I remembered the tune and enough of the lyrics that I was able to find it online this morning. I'm hoping that the next time we get together, I'll be over the 50,000-word mark, and be able to offer you some final insight into the whole process, but the reality is that this only feels like a beginning to me of something larger. I can't be sure of course, who knows what the future holds, but right now I feel like I'm in the grips of something that I no longer have any control over and it's going to demand I see it through to a final conclusion. For once I've created something that won't let me give up on it and all of a sudden fifty thousand words doesn't seem like a lot after all. To quote the great sage Bugs Bunny: "This feels like the beginnings of a beautiful friendship"

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