Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Day 9: Momentum

After yesterday's sludginess, today I wanted to make at least some forward motion with the So-Called Novel. On the one hand, I've been trying to stay in the general ballpark of writing approximately 1,667 words a day: the magic daily number for a slow & steady approach to NaNoWriMo's month-end goal of 50,000 words. At the same time, though, I've given myself permission to fall slightly behind during the work week (as I did last week) as long as I make a little bit of progress every day and use my weekends for catch-up.

That being said, though, I felt after yesterday's sludginess that it was important for morale's sake not to fall behind too much this week. Week 2 is the Heartbreak Hill of NaNo's month long challenge. After grooving on the adrenaline and "anything's possible" hoopla of Week 1, Week 2 is when reality sets in.

November is a long month if you try to get through it on pure adrenaline. The plot problems that felt like speed-bumps last week are starting to loom like mountains. Now that you've told everyone that you're writing a novel--Really!--during the month of November, during Week 2 the reality sets in. Writing a novel isn't as fun (at least not always) as it's made out to be. The prose that was slightly smelly last week is starting to reek to the heavens. "Anything is possible" is starting to turn into "This is crap, and nothing like a REAL novel." In other words, Week 2 is when it takes a huge amount of courage not only to make progress, but sometimes even to look at the damn thing.

Although I haven't reached full-blown Nausea yet, I'm fully, utterly aware now (as if I wasn't before) that what I'm writing is what I sometimes call a "zero draft." That isn't to say it's entirely worthless: at some later point, I'll probably reread this draft and find some salvageable bits. But right now, this isn't even a rough draft yet; instead, it's a "zero draft," a step or two before rough draft # 1. Rough drafts, after all, have beginnings, middles, and end, and right now it feels like my story is all over the place, with false starts and stops and a multitude of plot goofs I'll have to go back and fix if I ever want to share this with another soul.

But luckily, none of that matters right now. All writers have to produce "zero drafts" before they get to "done," even if they don't admit it in so many words. There's no narrative flaw so great that it can't be fixed or fudged, and that hard work comes later. Right now, it's all about momentum as I keep writing my way up and over Heartbreak Hill, and today's been a good day: 2,000 more words towards a cumulative total that's right about where it should be. In the world of NaNoWriMo, having enough momentum to make one's current word goal is all you need for bliss.

So, what do you do to boost morale and increase momentum after you've "hit the wall" of your own Heartbreak Hill? How do you know when you need to take a breather, and how do you know when you need to press on regardless?
Word-count: 15,120

Last line: Paul gestured toward the left edge of each of the loose manuscript pages, and Alexa noted that they each were edged by a thin jagged cut, as if they'd been sliced with a knife from a packet of pages.


At 11/09/2005 7:10 PM, Blogger Rebecca Clayton said...

Lorianne, you are awesome! Blog, teaching blog, writing blog and NaNo novel--more editing and writing than you can shake a stick at!

I've had plenty of experience churning out large mounds of text for deadlines, but if moving into a different genre qualifies as as a daunting task, please count me in!

After many years of technical writing and editing for scientific journals, grant proposals, and lab notebooks, I'm trying to get back to the sort of writing that excited me before all those years of grad school. That's what I'm working on with my blog
and Web pages.

At 11/09/2005 7:12 PM, Blogger Rebecca Clayton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/10/2005 12:04 PM, Blogger Diana said...

What a wonderfully inspirational post. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's writing a "zero draft." I have readers who ask me when they can read this and I just stall... They'd never understand it in its current state. I'll have to clean it up to make it a rough draft. "Zero draft" is the perfect name.

Hope your flu symptoms recede!

At 11/10/2005 3:59 PM, Blogger Lorianne said...

Rebecca, I think *anything* can be daunted if it's new-to-you territory, or if it has you scared/intimidated for any reason.

I briefly spent some time years ago doing tech writing, and it wasn't intimidating (to me) in the same way that creative writing is. Because I didn't really care about the "craft" of the finished product, I could simply churn out anything. Creative writing is (for me) scarier because I want it to be *good*, not just "adequate."

Diana, the term "zero draft" is something I picked up over the years I've been a college composition prof: if I could remember who said it first, I'd give credit where credit is due! It's a concept that rings incredibly true for me. Really, what I'm doing right now is getting my raw materials on the table. If a "rough draft" looks like something readable, what I'm doing is something that comes *before* that, when you're pounding out sloppy, unshaped *stuff*.


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