Thursday, November 17, 2011

Schadenfreude, or a NaNo Pep talk from an Aspiring Author

The other day, a friend on Goodreads mentioned they didn't quite enjoy the pep talks from the staff of the NaNoWriMo website (for those of you who don't know, National Novel Writing Month is when we all come out of the closet as writers, make sweeping declarations to conquer the publishing world, and churn out 50,000 word drafts). The idea with NaNoWriMo is that it is not the quality, but the quantity that matters in first drafts, and that the important thing is to have something there for you to work on during the rest of the year.

However, my friend was unhappy with the overall assumption in the pep talks that everything is crap and that everyone is about to give up. So I figured I'd write a pep talk of my own.

Mind you, I'm not published. But I did win NaNoWriMo in 2010, my first go, and the second draft of that project is only getting worse now. So here are my two cents of nano wisdom for you, cross-posted from my blog:


Dear writer,

It's the 16th, or 17th, depending on where you are. You're smack dub in the middle of NaNoWriMo and you're either breezing past the 50,000 words, or are wondering why did you begin in the first place.

At any rate, your story is not finished. Chances are, you are going to ask yourself (or maybe you already have), "Where is this story going?" If you're like me, you've gone through your initial ideas, worked out some pent-up steam, and now near a mellower, more meditative section of the book.

The advice I'm going to give you is dangerous. In fact, it would be illegal if it wasn't about a book.

You know what you should do? You should let all Hell break loose. You should hit the "Do NOT Push" switch. You should blow up the Earth.

Most importantly, you must make your characters suffer.

Cause here's the thing - mellow, meditative sections put people to sleep. No, I don't care if you're touching on an important topic - you can still impart your wisdom on the subject of abortion, homosexuality and religion while the Zombie Apocalypse is raging.

Why? To put it simply, nobody likes preachers. And putting issues in simple words is preachy. People want to make their own opinions about stuff - that's why you need to impart your lessons through your characters.

And another thing: Torturing your characters is a Cornucopia of delicious plot, and character development, not to mention dialogue. Look at "Interview with the Vampire" - nothing but Louis being melodramatic emo, and yet that launched Twilight.

But most importantly: It's not by succeeding that we learn the important things in life - it is by failing. It is by scraping our knees that we learn to be careful on the playground, and by burning our fingers that we know why fire has to be handled carefully. Your characters are no different.

So let's break out the Iron Maiden and the rack, people, and take our characters for a time trip to the Inquisition.

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