Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nanowrimo 2006 report

In the end I did finish Nanowrimo. Knocking off thirty-one thousand words in the first ten days and then giving up would have just been feeble.

So I've won Nanowrimo twice in a row, and I'm now confident that I can knock off a novel's first draft any time I want to. If you're a fast typist and get off to a good start, you can be almost there before the first week is out.

Spewing out 50k words for the sake of it is fine the first time you do it, but after that you have to be show more ambition. Which is why this year I decided I wouldn't consider Nanowrimo a success until I had finished the second draft.

Writing a novel turns out to be like blindfold-wrestling with an alien monster. You start off with an idea of what it is, but you can't get a grip on it and it keeps mutating. Having now completed (more or less) three different first drafts, it's clear I regularly hit a wall at about forty thousand words. Incremental fiddling with the original plan renders the story incoherent at around this point. I just lose heart.

This year, an unimportant character turned up at thirty thousand words with an unexpectedly flamboyant personality. He immediately blew away every other character, gleefully exposing their mechanistic personalities and feeble romantic subplots. Novel characters are in a Darwinian struggle: the best ones elbow their way to the fore, demanding page space just by being so enjoyable to write about.

Which is fine if the good characters are the major ones, but with me it's always the minor ones. And then you have a major structural problem.

So I can finish the half-assed first draft or start a major rewrite. Or just quietly abandon it. I don't quite know which way it's going to go.


Blogger Marionette said...

The craft of being a writer is knowing when to give the characters a good slap and telling them when to get back in line, and when to let them run free.

I've known several would-be novelists who were incapable of controling their characters, and consequently they'd start off with a good, clear story but end up going off on a tangent and rambling on until the whole thing collapsed under its own aimlessness or turned into a ten volume history of a world with no plot.

Decide what your priorities for THIS story are and kick the characters into line. It's not like you couldn't reuse any of the good stuff you have to cut out in the next novel.

11:12 am  

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