NaNoWriMo 2012 officially ended yesterday, and I’m happy to say that of the nine people on my NaNoWriMo Buddies list, five of them got their purple Winner badges.
At any rate, I had such fun getting to know my characters, and, as much as I complained about the difficulty of writing from the perspective of a naive 15-year-old, it really was an enjoyable experience. So enjoyable, in fact, that I’m anxiously awaiting Camp NaNoWriMo in April 2013 and have already started work on the plot for this next book.
My first novel, tentatively titled Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up? (the first draft of which is currently available in part on Wattpad.com), is based on a question I’ve mulled over for quite some time. What if, I wondered, Snow White ran off with Prince Charming, only to discover that he isn’t so charming after all?
See, the end of Snow White leaves much to be desired, in my opinion. I mean, Prince Charming shows up and is really just interested in her because she’s pretty.
Oh, yeah. He’s a winner.
So that’s where my story picks up.
My next novel will be a twist on Sleeping Beauty, and this picks up at the end of the traditional fairy tale, too. But what I wondered here was what would happen if Sleeping Beauty didn’t recognize true love’s kiss? That would completely mess up the fairy tale as we know it.
I like fairy tales. They’re fun to read and dissect and figure out ways to modernize them. And apparently, I’m not alone. I was reading a Huff Post Books piece about the resurgence of modern fairy tales that totally explained it. In it, author Andrew Carl made an insightful observation:
There’s something fun, though, about catching up with a character like the [Ugly] Duckling in a brand-new context — before, after, or in somewhat twisted parallel to the adventures we know by heart.
That’s part of why TV shows like Grimm, movies like Snow White and the Huntsman, comics likeFables, and even Broadway musicals like Wicked have all proven popular. These revisits have a certain built-in power to them, because we the audience are instantly connected to the characters, already invested in their lives and histories before they say a single word. It’s sort of like meeting up with a lifelong friend after a too-long absence. You used to know everything there was to know about them, so now you’ve just got to find out what you’ve missed and where they’re going next.
Do I think a major publishing house will pick up Prince Charming? Oh, gosh – I have no idea. I’d love it if they did. But at the very least, I’m writing something I like that, if there’s any truth to what I’m reading and seeing, is something other people might be interested in reading, too.
Yes, I know I’ve already won NaNoWriMo 2012, but I have some writing buddies who still have not, and this post is written with them in mind. (I don’t even know if any of them will read it, which is probably the odder thing.)
Before The Boy was born, I used to meet with a personal trainer, Kennedy, three times a week. She was fabulous. She pushed me hard, she didn’t take “no” for an answer, and she was tough. And yet I adored her. I would go to the gym every day, even when I didn’t have a session with her, partially so that she could see that I was there. But then she moved back to Oregon, but I learned my lesson from her. She taught me how to push myself to that next level, because she believed that I could do it.
I have a few NaNoWriMo buddies that I follow and, for lack of a better word, nag. I’ve met most of them in my weekly write-in sessions, though there are some I just discovered on Twitter, but for the most part they know I mean well when I send them messages asking why they haven’t updated their word counts.
Last Sunday, at my write-in, I gave a bunch of people a hard time for being behind in their word counts. But to be fair, I also bought coffee for someone who reached 50K while she was there and promised coffee to two others. And I managed to inspire (?) two others to keep writing.
I don’t know why they find me so inspiring. I don’t think I’m particularly easy-going about the goals I set for them. (I told one guy that he couldn’t have a cookie until he’d written 2,000 words.) But the thing is, I know my NaNo buddies are all capable. I’ve seen their stats: some of them have eked out upwards of 5,000 words a day! So if I can finished 50,000 words, I know they can, too.
And maybe that’s why they are willing to put up with my nagging. Maybe it’s because they know I’m asking them to update their word counts and just write another 50 words because I believe in them.
Are all my NaNo Buddies going to make it to 50K in the next two days? Probably not. But I think most of them will get to the 50K mark at some point. They’ve told me that they appreciate my nagging and that they’re writing because they know I’m watching. But they’ve made me a better writer, too, if for no other reason than the fact that I’m not going to push anyone to work any harder than I’m working myself.
There are still two more days before the end of the month. Some of my NaNo buddies are positioned to make it to 50K; I’m happy to say, though, that none of the buddies who let me nag them are below 30,000 words.
So maybe my nagging is a good thing, after all.
I was reading a rather intriguing article today on the Huffington Post site. In it, Steve Gottlieb, a fairly well known player in the music industry, talks about the need for publishers to embrace the digital platform when reaching consumers.
And as I read it, it occurred to me that there is another message within this article, but one meant more for authors.
What do I mean? Well, allow me to explain.
Bands don’t write songs and seek out agents and labels right away. Well, maybe some artists wait for their chance to be on X Factor or American Idol or something, but even factoring in those shows, musicians don’t just put something together and say, “Ooh! I know! Why don’t I find a label to audition for!”
And yet that’s what so many authors do. We write these fantastic books and try to get them out in front of people who can make or break our dreams, often without letting anyone besides friends and family read our work.
Struggling musicians try to find places to perform, seek out that feedback, work hard to build a fan base and interact with anyone and everyone who comes to their early shows because – hey! If that guy liked our show, maybe he’ll tell two of his friends, and they’ll tell two more, and they’ll tell two more, and the next thing you know, you’re filling tiny clubs to capacity and have A&R guys tripping over themselves to see why there’s so much buzz about you.
So, shouldn’t authors do the same?
(Allow me to make a shameless plug now for my own recently completed NaNoWriMo project tentatively called Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?, the second chapter of which is now up on Wattpad for your reading pleasure and feedback.)
I’ve currently sent out four copies of my first draft to friends with another going out this weekend, and I fully expect two of those copies to come back covered with red marks as I’ve sent them to teachers. (It’s feedback – I welcome it.) Two other copies are being read by my target audience and their mothers; I fully expect feedback there, as well. And the fifth is being read by my bestest friend from high school, mostly because she’s awesome like that but also because she’s the mom of middle school boys and can provide some feedback, as well, but from a slightly different perspective. (Note: No family has read this. Yet.)
What’s my point? Well, I’ve written something I think is pretty good, even if it is just a first draft. Yes, it needs some polish. But it’s kind of like a musician writing a new song. Is it going to sound exactly right when you play it for the first time? No. Is the crowd going to love it as soon as they hear it? Maybe, but quite possibly no. But that’s when you welcome criticisms and take them to heart and transform what is pretty good into something amazing.
And those people helping you along the way with criticisms? Maybe they’ll tell two friends that they like your work. And those people will each tell two of their friends. And the next thing you know, you’ve got a book that’s clawing its way up the Barnes & Noble and Amazon charts, and agents and publishers are now tripping over themselves to see what the buzz is about you.
So it’s not just publishers that can learn from the music industry. It’s authors, too. And while I can’t very well stand up and read the entirety of my 195-page novel (still can’t believe I wrote a novel) at an open-mic night, when I’m satisfied that my novel is ready, I can at least share copies in hopes that someone thinks it’s good enough to share with their friends or (gasp!) even post on Facebook about what an awesome book they just read.
Hey – a girl’s gotta dream, right?
Well, I’ve done it. I’ve actually done it.
I’ve written an entire book – from start to finish – in 24 days. Fifty thousand words, all strung together to form a coherent story, and I did it in just about three and a half weeks.
I feel ridiculously accomplished.
(Shameless plug: If you feel so inclined to check out the first chapter of my novel, you can read it on Wattpad. Please feel free to critique my work and leave comments. Yes, even if it’s harsh. I can take it.)
What are my big take-aways from this experience?
- Writing 50,000 words really isn’t that difficult. Writing 50,000 words in a manner that tells a story is more challenging, but not impossible. But writing 50,000 words from the mindset of a naive 15-year-old? Painful.
- There is a certain kind of camaraderie among fellow WriMos that can’t be explained to non-WriMos. It’s almost like you have to live through the frenzied 30-day self-imposed deadline in order to fully appreciate the insanity.
- Putting the Calendar Widget on my blog was one of the best motivators to get me to write at least the minimum 1,667 words each day. I still had two yellow squares (not including today’s), but I would have had so many more if I didn’t feel like I would be judged by the four people who actually visit my blog.
- I like outlining and wish I realized it sooner. I certainly didn’t stick to my outline the entire time; there were still some twists I definitely didn’t see coming (and I’m the writer!). But it really helped me stay on track.
- It also helped that my friend’s 11-year-old daughter signed on as an early Beta reader and demanded chapters on a daily basis. You don’t ever want to upset an 11-year-old girl.
- I had a lot of difficulty silencing my Internal Editor (IE), but I also discovered that I rely on her a lot. Yes, I could have easily gone off on random tangents a number of times (and in my revisions, I may very well need to take some of those journeys to add descriptors to the story), but my IE kept me focused. And I welcomed that, especially since I had a Beta reader who just wanted to know what happened next. (See #5.)
- Writing a novel is a lot harder than reading one. But it’s infinitely more gratifying when you get to the end.
So, for me, anyway, my NaNoWriMo 2012 journey is finished. I’ll get my word count validated in the morning, receive my certificate, order my Winner’s Shirt, and bask in the knowledge that it’s done. Many of my fellow WriMos won’t be done for another week, though. Some may not even make it to 50K by the end of the month, but that’s okay. The important thing is that they’re still writing.
The important thing is that we are all writing.
But Camp NaNoWriMo begins in June, and I’ve got a character from this novel who is begging to have her story told, too. So as I wait for feedback from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers on this novel, I suppose I can start the rough outline for the next. And maybe the one after that.
Because my biggest takeaway from NaNoWriMo?
I can do this – and I know I can because I already did it!
I’m Eileen Caines, and I’m a novelist.
Only 9,122 more words to go. That’s what the NaNoWriMo site is telling me.
I am exhausted.
Right now, I feel like I’m at that point of the race where you see that sign that says, “Look! You’ve only got 3 miles to go! That’s like a 5K! You can totally do a 5K!”
Now, I’ve only done two 12Ks, and at that part of the race, when I’ve already pushed through 7K, though my mind is strong, my body just wants to lie down and rest. Or maybe just walk. Yes, if I walk for a while, I’ll still move towards the finish line, but at least I can catch my breath a bit.
Only, with endurance writing (I love that term), there’s really no “walking”. You either write or you don’t. You may not crank out 3,000 words a day, or even 2,200, but you have to keep writing. And the best stuff doesn’t come out, and you start second-guessing yourself, and you just want so badly to get to the ending already though you know you have to pace it, but you just have to keep writing.
It gets hot when I run. I get frustrated when I write. My muscles ache when I run. My mind starts to wander when I write. My breathing gets labored and I have to slow down when I run. I fall asleep on my laptop and have to take a break when I write.
I don’t have any Gu to give me a boost of inspiration equivalent to the boost of energy it gives you on the track. But I can hear the metaphorical crowds just waiting for me around the bend, still cheering on the endurance writers who have finished before me, still waiting for me at that finish line. I can see my NaNo Buddies, most of whom are behind me in their word counts, and I’m yelling to them to keep going and not give up. And I can see other NaNo Buddies in front of me, doing the same for me.
I’ve got 9,122 more words to write. That means I’ve already written 40,878 words this month. That’s 40,878 words I’ve strung together to form a mostly-cohesive story. Is it a great story? I have no idea; I’ll read it when I’m done. Is it a good story? I’m not sure, but I have an 11-year-old beta reader who seems to thinks so. Does it still need a good dose of polish before I’m ready to submit query letters to agents in hopes they’ll help me find a publisher? Oh, dear God, yes.
But I’ve written almost 41,000 words in just 20 days. And I’ve only got 9,122 more words to go.
Yeah. I can totally do this.
“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon
There was an interview I read some time ago in which Joss Whedon talked about writing dialogue for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He said that when he was writing the first draft of the screenplay, he struggled a bit with dialogue and would go to malls and listen to teenage girls talk. When he realized they were all talking like Heathers, he decided to take a more natural approach to writing dialogue and just write the way he would talk.
And, fast forward a couple of decades, Joss Whedon is arguably one of the dialogue masters of his time. I mean, anyone whose name has become an adjective (“Whedonesque”, anyone?) is clearly deserving of that title.
Dialogue isn’t something I struggle with when I write. I hear conversations in my head and rush to get them onto paper (or the screen) as quickly as I can. I actually get tripped up when I have to add those identifiers so you know who’s talking, but conversations themselves kind of just flow.
And yes, I write exactly the same way I talk. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing dialogue for a computer geek, a high school quarterback, or a parent. It all comes out the way I hear it in my head, which is the way I would say it.
I love writing dialogue. But it has to be good, like there has to be a point to it. I think dialogue for the sake of dialogue is kind of lame. Yeah, we all like to hear ourselves talk, but unless there’s a purpose to what’s being said, people kind of tune out. I guess that’s why I’m really not a Tarantino fan. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were both full of scenes that contained, in my opinion, a ton of useless dialogue that didn’t do anything to move the story forward or establish character or even break up a scene with some levity. I think words are precious and should be treated that way, not just randomly tossed about.
I’m writing a Young Adult contemporary romance, and it’s full of dialogue. I’m a little concerned that it may not read realistically to my target audience, but I figure that as long as it sounds okay in my head, it should probably work on paper, too. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s why I have Beta readers.
I really need to pretend this is just another race, only one that lasts 30 days instead of an hour or so.
I’m really not sure how much training I could have done for NaNoWriMo. I’ve written a loose outline. I’ve thoroughly thought through (write that 10 times fast) the first four chapters of my novel and jotted down notes as I work my way to the first plot point. I’ve gotten to know my characters – both main and supporting – reasonably well, to the point that I adore some of them and wish I could smother others with a down pillow. I’ve left room for the story to grow organically but have created a reasonable path for my story to follow.
So, I think I’m ready. But as this is my first real go of NaNoWriMo, I’m (naturally) more than terrified. I have no idea what to expect. I don’t know how I’ll manage the things that will be thrown my way in the next few weeks. But I know I really want to do this, so I need to be confident that the rest of it will all kind of fall into place.
But that confidence doesn’t negate the fact that I’m still completely freaking out.