Pep Talk - 2009 - Week 2

It's week 2! Is everyone still alive? No? Oh well, too bad. :P

First off, for those who don't stalk the main site, ninjas added a handy little web word counter to the main site, as well as a downloadable version of the "official" wordcounter I use at the end of the month. Now you (and by you I mostly mean me, who is too lazy to use a wordcounter elsewhere) can check your words without having to leave the comfort of the site. Use it wisely, young grasshoppers :)

So, you've survived the first week, and I don't know about anyone else, but I am exhausted already! Even though I've been writing like mad every day, it still feels like I'm only scratching the surface and I could be writing much more. Oh, and of course, I could be writing much better (supposedly, so my inner critic tells me).

So in the course of my daily distraction breaks between writing, I discovered yet another site bashing Nano because If You Haven't Been Writing For Decades With Your Own Blood, You're Not Doing It Right And You're Not Really A Writer. "What crap," I laughed to myself. Obviously, here was another snooty group of writers who Did Not Get It. Sure, I said we should suffer in week 1, but I think these people were taking it a wee bit more seriously than I was.

Wondering what was so terribly offsetting and difficult to understand about the concept of WriMoing in general, I took a break from noveling to do some soul-searching among the great mountains of Georgia (this is a lie, we have no mountains in BFE) and ponder the true nature of the thing called JanNo. Why do we write if it's going to be entirely scrapped later (or possibly never gone back to)? Why aren't we suffering enough for our art? And more importantly, what the hell does writing have to do with a blacksmith?

I started with the question "why do JanNo?" After several deep and involved seconds, I came up with three reasons:

1. To have fun. You'd think this would be obvious, but judging by the number of snooty writer groups that insist that Nano has "no literary value", apparently not. If you're writing, you must be working on the next bestseller: there will be no ninja pirate lesbians IN SPAAAAACE, "Suddenly, cabbages! Thousands of them!" or, god forbid, that cracktacular Harry Potter/My Little Ponies crossover you've been brewing since sixth grade.

Publication, whether traditional, self-published, or online via fanfiction.net and other similar sites, is not the end goal of a Wrimo. Sure, some may have that in mind, but most, honestly, don't. Even authors who are seriously looking into being published (or are already working on it) may want to kick back with a little idiotic fluff every now and then. You know, writing for the joy of writing and seeing where a story goes. In a world where so many things are Serious Business, I think some of our snooty friends forget that.

2. To see if an idea is viable. Sometimes ideas work. Sometimes they don't. Usually the only way to tell the difference between the two is to try writing it and seeing what happens. Not all ideas will work, for various reasons: the plot or premise just wasn't as good as you thought, you just couldn't get into the story, or maybe it doesn't fit the audience you're going for. That's okay. It's when you get to the end and say "Okay, this really doesn't work" that you've really gotten an idea out of your system and can move on to the next idea. Speaking of out of your system....

3. To barf an idea out. I find that "barf", and its many, many synonyms, is an appropriate metaphor for describing a first draft, and not because of the perceived quality. This is an idea that (assumably) you've never put down in written form. You don't know what's going to happen. You aren't sure that your outline is set in stone, that your characters are going to react the way you need them to (or react at all), that the scenes are in the order you're going to want them, if that platonic scene between Ron and his pony is really going to work out, etc. So you spew it all out as fast as you can to get it in a solid form. And while there's a chance you may bag it up and throw it out as fast as possible, if it's sort of interesting (or you have a fascination with puke), you may start looking it over going "so THAT's what made me sick" and work on arranging your next meal into something a little less full of salmonella.

Having that first draft is essential. It gives you a textual way to remember everything in one handy manuscript so it's massively easier to see where you were going and where you ended up. From there, you can nail in exactly what the story is so you can prepare for a second draft.

(As I continued my journey through the nonexistant Georgian mountains, where Chris Baty is no doubt collecting inspirational yaks despite the fact that that happened a couple of Nanos ago, I also came to the conclusion that blacksmithing didn't have much of anything to do with writing.)

So remember that letting go of the quality issues really is okay. Just write. Write for the joy of writing and the joy of pissing off the writing snoots (which is almost as good). Write without any thought of publication. Write just to answer your own what-if. Write to get your literary barf in English (or language of choice) instead of telepathy.

And remember that the snoots are secretly jealous that they can't write with our love, particularly not in a community, for their suffering is dark, solitary, and misunderstood by the end of the world (except for perhaps Linkin Park). As silverchild2 said to me during my snoot wonderings on suffering and Nano: "That's the thing, though. You're supposed to. But having a community of fellow sufferers to support you defeats that suffering. It might even make writing *gasp* enjoyable."

Having now come off my imaginary mountain, I now bring forth some more practical musings.

First, since you've been doing this a week, you should have some sense of how much you can conceivably write during the month and, if you're lucky, how long your story/stories are going to be. Don't be afraid to change that goal if you need to (and upwards is great!) Unlike Nano, where the common baseline is a strict and unforgiving 50k, here the common baseline is any strict and unforgiving whatever-challenges-you. Some people honestly struggle with 10k, while, judging by some of the numbers I've seen in the word count thread, are going to "breeze" (if that word can be applied) to 100k. More, less, doesn't matter. It's what makes you struggle. So if you do want to change that goal of yours, you should do it by the end of the next week or so.

Back ups. I'm not kidding here. There were a massive amount of sob stories on Nano this year relating to abrupt computer crashes, Word being the evil Microsoft donkey it is, flash drives going belly-up, and hard drives dying (that one was mine, although a timely backup, a flash drive, Safe Mode and persistance managed to save everything.) Depending on how paranoid you are, how much you write, and how much you can lose before it's a disaster, you should backup anywhere from every few days to every other sentence. Email and Google Docs are excellent ways to back up on something that will be unaffected by your computer spontaneously combusting, and will also allow remote access from another computer.

As many may know, a laptop, with its amazing and unprecendented ability to be taken other places, is a valuable asset in nonstop writing. However, for those that don't have such convenient marvels of technology, a notebook will be more help than you think (it also works for those that have laptops but can't always use them, such as, say, the middle of class). I found that whenever I wrote something out when I didn't have a laptop, I always expanded on it when I went to type it up. It makes the most of your time.

All right, enough of that. Stop reading and go back to writing. And don't believe the evil rumors about Week 2 that Chris Baty's evil side likes to spread. They aren't true, and besides, it can smell fear.