If you’re a writer, you may have heard of NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. (www.nanowrimo.org) From the first time I heard of it, I loved (a) how NaNoWriMo rolls off the tongue and (b) the idea of writing a novel in one month! It’s a completely crazy idea, of course, but that just makes it more lovable in my world. Once past the original excitement, you find out that the real idea - more or less - is to write a serviceable first draft of at least 50,000 words in a month.
That’s a little more do-able. Still totally crazy, though. For that pace, you’d need to crank out close to 1,700 words a day, every day, during the course of a month. Got a job? Too bad, you still need your 1,700! Need to sleep? Not an option unless you’ve already offered up your 1,700 (or even better, 2,000 to get ahead of the curve) to the NaNoWriMo Muse. The “official” NaNoWriMo month is November. I’ve never actually participated, because every November since I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been deep in the thrall of working on one of my two completed novels, SHADOW POINT and HEAVENLY MOVES. This November could be my chance, though, if I could just finish up that pesky third manuscript, ROMEO FAILS.
One of the “rules” (and I use that term loosely - please see www.nanowrimo.org for their highly entertaining info) of NaNoWriMo is that you start the month with a brand new novel. You don’t use the month to finish an existing project. That’s a good rule, I think. So I apparently must finish ROMEO FAILS in October if I want to jump into NaNoWriMo this year. And I’d love to try it, at least once! I’ve even got my story idea all picked out...
So... OctoWriMo? I WILL finish ROMEO FAILS, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. It’s actually kinda sort of close to finished, in that it’s around the 70% mark. Unfortunately for me (and, I hear, for many other writers), the dreaded 70% mark can all too often signal the entrance to the doldrums, or, as I like to call it, The Swamp.
At the 70% mark, I know exactly where I am in the story. And I know exactly how the story ends. I even have a pretty good idea how I’m going to get there. But somehow, I have wandered into The Swamp - a horrible morass where my plot bogs down, my dialogue dries up, and my brain keeps fruitlessly reviewing what I’ve previously written, over and over again. The mosquitoes are pretty bad in there, too.
It’s a horrible place, that Swamp. But I always get out in the end and I will this time, too! This is when one of the most important writer’s tools must be used. Creativity and a way with words have gotten me this far - now it’s up to my perseverance to get me out of the swamp. If you want to be a writer, you must write. Every day, pretty much. You may have written your way right into that swamp, but you will write your way out of it as well. And then you can take a day off and go to the beach.
Which is not to say you can’t use a few tricks, as well. Whatever works to get you out of The Swamp! For me (this week), that includes writing in a different physical place than I usually do. Maybe a change of scenery will kick start my brain. Also, I’m setting some very tight time goals for certain scenes. The scene I’m currently deep in the quicksand with is a Saturday morning breakfast scene. (criminy, I am SO sick of that breakfast scene!) I’m literally setting the kitchen timer (hmmm, coincidence?) and giving myself ten minutes to finish that one, then I’m moving on to the next scene, NO MATTER WHAT. Take That, Swamp!
And then I’ll come back later and rewrite, since I’m a perfectionist, but for now, Time Marshes On. I mean marches. OctoWriMo Rules!