Thursday, October 30, 2008

Am I A NaNo Cheater?

This year, after lots of serious thought and introspection (yeah, right), I decided to make a decent stab at NaNo. I’ve signed up in the past but always something has prevented me from finishing. Really important things like freaking out because Thanksgiving is at our house and I can’t remember how to cook a turkey (the easiest thing in the world) and so how can I POSSIBLY devote myself to writing 50,000 words in a month when I have to learn how to make a turkey? Or the fact that November is sweeps month on network TV and hello, who has time to write when the mysteries of Jim and Pam are about to be solved? (Which they weren’t, by the way … that was 2 years ago. I think). But this year I am totally seriously devoted. Seriously.

Except I have a problem.

I might have to “cheat” at it. See, the good people over at NaNo have a few rules. Really good, reasonable rules. But one of them is in direct conflict with what I need to accomplish. Here it is:

Do I have to start my novel from scratch on November 1? Can I use an outline?


This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You'll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you'll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death.

Punishable by death! Yikes! I can understand their reasoning. When I am in the second draft of a novel, my writing really slows down because I get bogged down by details, have to go back and check voice/tone/humor, have to research all those facts I put notes by in the first draft, etc. But that’s the second draft. In the first, it’s really a free for all, write by the seat of my pants kind of experience. And that’s where I am now - on the rollercoaster. (I really wish it were like June or July or something so I could go to Six Flags and ride the rollercoasters. I know, I know, Fright Fest is going on but I don’t do cold. Ever.) I am experiencing the creative rush now in the first draft of Enchanted Temptation and I am scared to stop. If I stop, if I work on something else for the month of November, I am afraid I won’t be able to rediscover the flow of images, voices and ideas that come with writing the first draft of something in a crazy frenzy. I’ll forget. I’ll forget Philippa’s prickly humor and Finn’s unmasked honesty. I’ll lose all the loose plot threads twisting about in my brain. Right now I have them in my fist, held tight so they fit before they are sewn together. But if I stop, I’ll never remember how they all twisted together before and made sense. Do I have notes? Of course. A huge notebook devoted (I even have a Table of Contents … I’m strange, I know this, but it works for me) to the manuscript with everything I’ll ever need to know jotted down on some random page (hence the Table of Contents people). Unfortunately the notebook can never take the place of the vision in my head. I don’t want to lose my vision.

Do I have other manuscript ideas? Oh yes, hundreds. And I even have another notebook made up entirely of plot ideas. (I really should put them all into a Word Doc. Do you know how badly I would freak out if I lost that notebook?) I know, if I were absolutely FORCED to abandon Enchanted Temptation in the month of November which idea I would work on. But that’s the point. THERE ARE NO REFERRES! I could break all the rules and no one would ever know. Except me. And I hate keeping secrets. So I confess them all in a blog so it’s out there for everyone to see. I am starting to notice a slightly self-destructive pattern here. Hm … .

When I first began writing this post, I was torn. I don’t want to be a cheater but I also need to do what’s best for me. So in the writing of this post I have decided to break NaNo’s rule and become an official NaNo Cheater. At least I am upfront about it though. That has to count for something, right? I’ll enter my word count, and I’ll cheer everyone else on, but I’ll be cheating each and every day too. And I’m OK with that. Seriously.  


Sandie Hudson said...

HI Emily,
Saw your link over at Crit Partners. I think you have to do what helps get you through the month. Anyway rules are meant to be broken, right? LOL. I'm starting a new project only because I'm writing my first historical romance and I never plot a thing. Even my characters names change from time to time. I have a timeline for historical facts but that's it at the moment.

Good luck with your novel and your turkey. Hope you have a great month.


Emily said...

Sandie ~ thanks for the encouragement. I love breaking rules, when they don't really matter. Good luck with your first historical, I love writing them!