Friday, November 04, 2005

Day 4: Chronology be damned

Having starting the So-Called Novel with some semblance of a premise, today I gave up (for now) any hope of a linear storyline. Yesterday I realized I'd written some 3,000 words without ever describing my protagonist, partly because I didn't initially know what she looked like. After settling upon some basic physical details (Alexa is taller than me, for instance, and has short, blondish-gray hair), yesterday I free-wrote, by hand in my notebook, a chunk of physical description which I just now typed up.

Normally, I don't like novels that "dump" huge chunks of exposition or description in the midst of a story, unless the placement of that exposition or description is strategic, designed to create suspense or otherwise work toward an intentional narrative end. But, inserting chunks of word-count--any sort of word-count--is exactly how you get to 50,000 (or so I learned when I did this last year). Come to think of it, this habit of "chunking" raw bits of writing into the middle of an otherwise organized document is how I wrote large portions of my dissertation: whenever I'd get stuck with one idea, I'd skip a few spaces, write whatever idea wasn't stuck, and would go from there.

In an age where revisionary cutting and pasting is as easy as a click of the mouse, why wouldn't you write a document this way, doing a "brain dump" of information whenever and however it occurs to you, and then going back later to re-order and revise those bits? Whenever someone asks whether they can read (heaven forbid) my NaNo novel from last year, I have to stifle a chuckle. That draft is literally unreadable, for it isn't written in order from A to B to C but in the order its ideas occurred to me: first A, then X, then some idea that makes sense only to me but might somehow relate to T.

So, how do you write documents? Do you go in logical order, starting with a first line and then ending with the end? Or do you write your documents as I do: in fits and spurts, jotting things down (and rambling) as thoughts occur to you, wandering into a totally different direction when one thing has you stuck, and trusting that you can reorder, rewrite, and rework any- and everything when revision time comes?
Word-count: 4,001

Last line: All Alexa knew was that when the waters subsided and she once again walked the dry streets of her town, she thought twice before heading down Winston Street toward its outskirts, secretly avoiding the ominous red house with its fiercely barking dogs.

6 Comments:

At 11/04/2005 9:44 PM, Blogger kenju said...

Lorianne, except in college, I have not written anything longer than a post on my blog, so I am perhaps not a good one to ask. I think if I were going to attempt to write a work of fiction, I would come up with an idea, write an outline for it, deciding what would happen in each chapter, and start from there. Is that just too naive of me?

 
At 11/05/2005 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, good grief! You're killing me! I've as much as given up on writing this year, and then today, quite by accident, I meandered my way to your blog for a lookee-see. Considering that I've been practically sterile in the world of words lately, I was craving an abundance of both the linear and photographically induced sort -- obviously I knew exactly where to come to assuage the hunger.

What do I find? Dr DiSabato, deep into the throes of word count (hooray for you, by the way -- you keep it going, and don't let those frustrations and stumblings blocks get it the way). You gave me cause to wonder, which gave me reason to ponder, which lead to the idiotic idea of "why not".

So here I am, at 1223 words on day 4 (of my day 1), and some making up to do to get me to my comfort level. Me, being the over-achiever that I am, divide the month into 20 days (to allow for those just-not-gonna-write days), which means I need to be pushing 2500 words a day. Is that possible? I guess I'll know in the days and weeks to come.

Stop the insanity! Quick!

Seriously, thanks for giving us a place to share our horror (and encouragement). My own little corner of the Would-Be Novel, affectionately hereinafter reffered to as the WordLump Project, is off and running. I'm not sure if I want to thank you or hurl pies in your face. But I am sure that I want to commend you for seizing the moment, and for creating this sharing space.

Night-owl, by the way. Many things are best done in the dark.

ntexas99

 
At 11/05/2005 8:08 AM, Blogger Tamar said...

I am totally inspired by this site. And grateful and relieved. I write a lot like you, lorianne. Early in the morning and "in fits and spurts, jotting things down (and rambling) as thoughts occur to you, wandering into a totally different direction when one thing has you stuck, and trusting that you can reorder, rewrite, and rework any- and everything when revision time comes?"

I've been thinking: of course I could write this novel - 50,000 words in one month. Of course! I know how competitive I am. And so I sat down and pounded out my proposal (which I have been waiting for a year to do!) yesterday - in one day! for my second book. I know - it's non-fiction. But here goes, tipping my hat to lorianne!

Word count: 3,000.
My last 3 sentences:
"We are tested with our responses when there are very strong emotions. Problems with meeting our own expectations. What is considered humiliation or emotional abuse? How far do we go?"

 
At 11/05/2005 9:21 AM, Blogger Lorianne said...

Woo-hoo!!! How exciting to hear from the three of you! This is *exactly* what I envisioned this blog could be: a place where folks not only watched my NaNo journey from the sidelines, but where they also shared about their starts, stops, & stumbles.

Kenju, I'm of the mindset that ALL WRITING COUNTS. Blogging counts as writing, as did the stuff you did in college. All a *long* project does is shine a high-beam on whatever work habits & quirks you have as a writer: these habits probably exist in shorter writing, too, but they *really* come out in force when you're faced with a long project. So I guess it's like comparing daily running with running a marathon: both give you a workout, but a marathon points out your "stride" in a particularly focused way.

I don't think there's any one way to write a long project: I'm sure there are *many* writers who organize their project & then follow that plan fairly faithfully. When I wrote my dissertation, for example, I closely followed my proposal's chapter outline...but within any given chapter, my thoughts were all over the place.

I think the secret is to find the style that works for you, not trying to emulate someone else's work style.

ntexas, it's *great* to hear you've taken the NaNo plunge! Last year Gary started his NaNo novel almost a week into November...and although I often surpassed him in daily word count, he pulled off some Marathon Word-Count Weekends and finished his novel a day before I finished mine! So *everything* is possible if you learn how to write wildly, recklessly, and with no Inner Editorial concerns with "quality"!

Tamar, I'm positively *thrilled* to hear you've been inspired by my fiction-fest to dive into a long-planned non-fiction project. Part of the fun (for me) of NaNo is that I don't consider myself to be a writer of fiction: since I see myself as being an essayist more than a novelist, I don't have to take this project seriously. It's a game, really! :-)

BUT, I take my writing *process* very seriously, even when I'm working on a project that is producing a less-than-serious product. So it's good to hear that writing *process* translates from one genre to another. Although novelists, non-fiction and dissertation writers, etc. are working on a different sort of *product,* I think we all can learn from one another (and gain some encouragement & support) when we talk *process*.

Good luck to everyone, and KEEP WRITING! :-)

 
At 11/05/2005 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lorianne, last year I came very close to dipping my toe into the NaNo water, but I let the overwhelming sound of "50,000" scare me away. I did watch on the sidelines as others marched forward, and can only say that my thoughts were along the lines of "I wish I would have at least given it a go" when I saw the incredible sense of accomplishment that those participating were displaying.

I argued with myself that if the finished product wasn't publish-worthy, then there was no point. Also that punching out words, just for the sake of numbers, wasn't,writing, but rather counting. Today I see the benefit of simply going through the exercise --- how better to convince yourself that IT CAN BE DONE than to simply do it? No matter that the finished product isn't worthy of Dickens or Faulkner, because seriously, would it have been if it had taken you a year instead of a month to write it? However, by proving that writing can be a skill done by force of habit as much as by inspiration, you let the muse watch the process, and give them room to jump in whenever they feel the inspiration.

This whole NaNo thing makes such beautiful sense, and the knowledge that there are others out there similarly struggling through the process is a huge motivation. We can do this ... collectively, and individually. What a great concept for making writing come alive, in a very real and tangible way.

As to your question on order and structure - I had an idea in my mind about an outline of sorts, but by the end of the first day, I tossed it out the window and just followed the words in whatever direction they were headed. I figured I could always come back later and patch the pieces together. The other important thing I did was that I had to turn off athe auto-edit features (spell check, grammar). I can't be distracted by worrying about being tidy - for me, I need the freedom of creating without restrictions. We can always edit them in later.

I'm often shaking my head in appreciation at your abilities, Lorianne, and this would be one of those times. Thanks for creating Get It Done, and keep churning out that wordcount!

ntexas99

 
At 11/05/2005 11:44 AM, Blogger Lorianne said...

ntexas, I keep trying to look at writing a NaNo novel as being like running a marathon. Even if you know you won't be the fastest runner (the "winner"), at least you can push yourself to do something you didn't think was possible. Even if you end up limping over the finish line in last place--or even if you don't make it to the finish line--you got something out of the process that you *wouldn't* have gained had you sat on your couch watching the race on TV.

I think just as every writer is different, every project is different. For last year's So-Called Novel, I had NO sense of plan or outline, just a random assortment of loosely-connected stories. This year I'm trying to write something with an actual story arc, but it's far too early to tell where the story is "really" going.

Either way, I'm having fun being "off the couch," and I'm glad you're coming along for this year's "run," too!

 

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