Friday, October 23, 2009

The Write Way: The Game and Gods, and Success or Salvage.

My original plan consisted of tips, about how to succeed at nano as well as warning signs.  But you know what?  Sometimes it's both, not an either/or scenario.

My third year's nano was The Game.  It was inspired by Stephen King's short story, The Long Walk, and in it, initiates underwent an ordeal to become full-fledged mages.  An ordeal that cost most initiates their lives.  An ordeal that became a spectator sport to boot.  Sound concept, but I struggled to eke out the last chapter or two of the 50,000 words.  To this day, this novel is still incomplete  Why?  Because my goals did not end with winning nano, but with a complete draft.  Hard enough to do in 90 days.  Even harder when you realize, subconsciously, something is wrong.  You get to a point where you cannot go on.

The next year, last year, I reached that point well before the middle, much less the end, of the 50k goal came into sight.  In fact, it was so tragic a failure, I no longer recall how many words I wrote, when I stopped, nor the name of the work beyond the the word "Gods" being present in it.  The concept, however, involved a winged quarter-god who was trying to gain his godhood--but the only surviving member of a slave race stole his magic mojo and his ability to fly with it.  They would start out as enemies, but come to together to acheive a lofty--he, he--goal.  That nano I lost, because I couldn't force out the words.

That is the key word.  Force.  Whether or not your goal is to win nano or produce something you want to publish one day, forcing the story isn't going to cut it.  But nano failure doesn't mean novel failure.  I'm a firm believe in no effort is wasted.  Case in point, both of these novels are salvageable in one form or another.

The Game needs rewritten, a realignment of its focus and a new opening.  But goal to see it published hasn't changed.  And the failed nano?  I'm losing most of the original plot and grafting the basic concept of the story, world, and characters onto another novel where it fits so much better.

So, how did I manage to salvage these novels?  But giving myself time.  Time to think through the novels's flaws and how to fix them.  Time to think through the novels's strengths and how not to lose them.  Time you don't have during the rush-rush-rush of nano.  Finally, time away from the month-long hyper-focus on one novel.  Time fixes many things.

Before I wrap this up, I want to salvage something of my original concept for this week's topic.   So, I will give you two tips.

First, how do you succeed at nano?  Pick a novel that can carry you, not the other way around, through the month.  You don't have time for anything else.

Second, if you are having problems, make a judgement call at the end of week one on whether or not to continue or use a backup nano idea.  How?  Trust your gut.  If the words are coming hard, try slapping a bandage on the problem.  That is, write a note to yourself about what is needed and move on.  If you can't, there is no saving that patient--until after November.  That's when you pull out your backup.

Finally, here's a third tip, gratis.  Whatever you do, don't judge yourself.  Nano is supposed to be fun--keep it that way, and you'll thank yourself when you approach both this year's product and next year's nano.

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