Pep Talk - 2008 - Week 2

Man, it's not easy to write a pep talk. I asked Chris Baty the other day how he did it (this is, of course, entirely in my imagination.) He said I should read his book and find out. I ask, "Since this conversation is entirely in my imagination, can't you just give me a copy?" He replies, "Get back on track with your wordcount and we'll see."

I hope my imagination is amused at my misery.

So week one is at an end. Everyone's had their first taste of the writing month (some for the first time). Some of you are ahead, and that's good. Some of you are keeping a steady pace (1613 words a day, by the way, for a 50k goal) and that's also good. Some of you, like me, are behind, and are already starting to feel fatigued at the idea of 30, 40k more to go.

So yeah, tia is behind again. While there are a number of excuses I could offer up, the hard truth of it is that when I do sit down, I just can't be bothered to write, or I let myself be distracted. (Hey, I suck, but at least I'm honest about my suck.) Yep, I'm losing to me. So here's a few thoughts on how to beat the crap out of me your inner enemy:

How bad do you want it? As corny as it sounds, it's true. The more desperately you want to write (and possibly finish) your story, the less of that "there's always later" there will be in your mind. If your wordcount is piddlingly low and you're sick of your story, perhaps an idea is to take a bit and meditate on either why you don't like your story, or what you *would* like. Now is the time to do that, before we're too far into the month. It's far easier to bust butt to make up a deficit on a story you like than trudge and struggle to keep up on a story you hate. (Of course, no one says you have to start over; there's always the Nanowrimo-approved "It was all a dream" method.)

Skip a bit, Brother. So you're absolutely stuck in this scene you hate and can't seem to get past. So skip it and move onto something you want to write more. I've been absolutely struggling with the first two chapters because my head's in chapter three where the action starts. It's far easier to come back to a section you struggled with when your overall goal is much closer to completion, and who knows, the scene might be even better once you give it some time away. Not one of those people that can skip around? (I used to be that way, and even then I've only done it once successfully) Write out a quick placeholder synopsis for when you come back to that scene in the editing process. Who cares if it's as inelegant as "The elephant crawls off the elevator. Everyone stares in shock. Frank makes a lame elephant-related joke." This is a first draft, remember, and the focus is to get the plot and scenes down on paper, not getting out that perfect prose. It also saves you from having to stop to research lame elephant jokes. You may even find that once you've got the general idea of the scene down, it's easier to expand on than writing from scratch.

Remove the filter. One of my friends has a joke about there not being enough of a filter between the brain and the mouth, causing one to say whatever they think regardless of how awkward it is. >_> Sit yourself in front of the computer, and whatever you think of, no matter how rambly it sounds, type it. (Substitute "paper" and "write" as needed.) One of the reasons I write at probably a third of the speed I type is because I sit and think over and over again about what sentence is coming next, and it takes me about three run-throughs to get it out. For your sanity's sake, don't do this.

Know when to break and when to not. There's a difference between needing a breather to let your brain un-explode, and taking a break to amuse oneself with distractions. It is okay to break if you're honestly stuck and hating your story (assuming you don't hate it all the time; see point one.) The danger in break-taking lies in "Oh, it's just for five minutes--ooh, my favorite show's on" or "Okay, I wrote x amount of words, I feel justified in playing that new game even though I'm still behind where I want to be." Going back to my central theme, it takes self-discipline to steer away from the second and to distinguish it from the first.

Of course, no word of advice is set in stone. I continually do it "wrong" year after year (continual filter, struggling for perfect prose, researching every detail). However, things like imperfect prose and unresearched details and synopses instead of full scenes are all things that can be fixed in editing. Again, the important thing is to get the plot and scenes down, and if your usual writing methods have got you behind, try cutting a little of the fat out of your creative process for a while.

While you're at everything, take a moment to see how your pace is this week and pay attention next week as well. Are you writing faster than expected? Slower? Things may come up and you may feel like you're forced to lower your goal, but I'm hoping the only changes will be raising them. Wrimo-ing is primarily a challenge to yourself. If it's not challenging, then you're not doing it right. The person that is most going to appreciate that winner's certificiate (which is awesome, by the way) is you, and how much are you going to love it if you didn't truly apply yourself as best you could? Setting the proper goal is also part of self-discipline. (Of course, for you nano purists like myself who just want the standard 50k goal and see if we go any further, that's fine too.)

(And if anyone is wondering why this is almost a day late (my poor Aussies D: ) it's because I *totally* forgot today was the eighth, not the seventh.)