Tuesday, 1 November 2016

TOP 10 WRITERLY WOES

In the words of one wiser and cooler than myself - "It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

(Yes, it's Maggie Stiefvater. No one is surprised.)

Apart from a deadly race atop demonic horses in The Scorpio Races, November 1st also marks another deadly race against time by way of computers and notebooks known as NaNoWriMo. It's about equally as terrifying, and the death toll is neck-in-neck. In The Scorpio Races, they ride horses who eat them and they die. During NaNoWriMo, we write novels who eat us and we die.

So this week for our Top 10 feature, Lexie has compiled ten hurdles that always come our way while writing. It isn't THE ten hurdles, or even the ten most common hurdles. There is no such thing. The hurdles are endless. (She said, while dramatic music swelled in the background.) But in anticipation of a month of writing dangerously (and all that makes it dangerous), these are the ten we can expect to come our way first.

May the odds be ever in our favor.




1. The Invasion of the Plot Bunnies



There you are, calmly plotting/writing/thinking about your upcoming historical romance novel, when A WILD SPACE OPERA APPEARS. Do you space opera now? Do you historical romance? Or do you turn to another OF THE TWENTY-FIVE PROJECTS WHICH HAVE OCCURRED TO YOU IN THE LAST TEN MINUTES?

You'll be happy to know that it's not you. It's the plot bunnies. Like real bunnies, they repicate entirely too fast, and they can invade anywhere, anytime. (BEWARE THE BUNNIES! I have literal childhood scars.) With these metaphorical bunnies, however, chances are they choose to invade your brain it at the precise moment you're set to write and stick to a specific project. Bonus points if they catch you while racing against time/a deadline!



2. Rudely Off-Script Characters


So you've finally planned it all out - whether in your head, or on paper. You know what you wish to write about, you know what happens, and you know what concept you want to explore.

Your characters, however, vehemently disagree.

So the character who is supposed to be injured and bedridden is suddenly scaling fences, ninja-style, the ones meant to fall in love are alternating holding knives to each other's throats, and that one who was meant to save everyone in the final battle? Dead on page 5.

Today's characters. No sense of decorum. No respect for rules or (your) authority. But don't worry - those two trying to kill each other is how all great romances start. As for the rest - well - your choices are twofold: kill them all off and switch to the aforementioned space opera, OR... welcome to the Pantser Zone.



3. Serial Killer Research


When it comes to research, too, you'll be happy to find you have options:

  1. Do it all in Incognito Mode, wipe your browser history, pretend it never, ever happened, and live your life in paranoia that others will read your mind and see the depravities you looked up, or
  2. Do it publicly in full acceptance that a government protection agency might flag you with serious concerns.

At one point or another, we all have to research how to stab/maim/poison someone most efficiently, create a detonator, or destroy a city/planet/galaxy/the universe at large.

But for your social life's sake - I hope the only one with access to your research is you.



4. Crater Memory


Oh, yes, you'll definitely remember that intricate sideplot in the morning. You'll definitely remember a way around that plot hole after the dishes are done. That foil side character is so unique, there's no possible way to forget them once you're home and on your laptop. And that minor antagonist's tertiary motivation - it's practically already in the story.

See that crater, by the way? That giant hole on the surface of the moon so deep, it might actually go all the way through and expel objects into the aether, never to be found again? Those are your later-to-be-written-down ideas. Eaaaach and every single one of them. Disappearing forever.

And your notebook is judging you.



5. The Internal Editor of Doom


As NaNoWriMo and assorted authors will repeatedly advise - write now, edit later. It's a PG-version of Hemingway's 'Write drunk, edit sober'. But I digress. (And I would also respectfully disagree with Hemingway. I'm in college. What I've witnessed is not conducive to writing.)

Except you'll-never-amount-to-anything, oh-my-god-worst-sentence-ever, you-just-used-said-five-times-in-one-sentence, what-even-does-that-mean, Stephen-King-hates-adverbs, that's-cheesier-than-your-favorite-pizza, people-will-totally-think-you're-ripping-off-your-favorite-author, was-that-a-preposition-at-the-end, this-voice-is-so-mundane, should-have-chosen-past-tense, that-character-lacks-all-agency, and-that-one-is-just-a-token-sidekick, your-protagonist-isn't-really-funny, this-has-all-been-done-to-death.

There are many tricks to dealing with your inner editor. So far I've found none that work, short of stabbing them to death. (Don't try this at home, kids.)



6. Discouraging Comparison


If you're a basically functioning, collected human with ample common sense, you'll probably find reading finished novels while working on your own inspirational. As for the rest of us (#TeamUncommonSense), it's more akin to strategic, self-inflicted torture.

I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS PERFECTLY SENSIBLE COLLECTION OF BOUND PAGES! ALL WRITING IS AS DISJOINTED, ERRATIC, AND AS CONFUSING AS MY MANUSCRIPT! LIFE ONLY MAKES SENSE IF EVERYONE MAKES AS LITTLE SENSE AS ME! REAL BOOKS BEGONE!



7. Names, Titles And Synopses


As we've already established last month - names are hard. Titles are also hard. And when NaNoWriMo prompts you to write a story synopsis prior to actually writing the story?

... How early is too early to quit?

And is it acceptable to just name everyone Bart, name the story Smorgasbord (not because it is like one, but because it's a funny word) and copy the opening sentence of Swann's Way in lieu of synopsis? Because the options that occurred to us so far have been canvassed and repeated so many times, they've lost all meaning and they're just a bunch of pointless syllables to us now.

Query letters, loglines and general pitches will be a blast.



8. Procrastination Nation


On leisurely days, we procrastinate. On writing days, we procrastinate procrastination by procrastinating.

Unlike leisurely days, however, this brand of delays comes at the cost of guilt, stomach-churning shame, torturous levels of self-reproach, word count math (!), bargaining, all other stages of grief, mild-to-severe panic, and unhealthy amounts of pie.

The pie helps. But only slightly.



9. Reality Checks


No, I'm not talking about the horrific realization that Real World Things have been happening while you were in your writing bubble. (Though that is a woe, too. Just not one of particular interest to us extraterrestrially minded.) Rather, I'm talking about that moment when you take a big enough of a step back from that immersive, intoxicating, exhilerating first draft only to realize...

... it's nothing like the wonder you've envisioned in your head. The atmosphere doesn't translate, the characters are too robust, the pacing is all wrong, and what were you even thinking with that entire subplot?


Behold the woe number 10...



10. The Great Beast That Is Editing


"Good job, you made it! NOW MAKE SENSE OF IT!"




And despite the woes - here we are. Again with shiny new projects and more hope than is rational at this stage, again celebrating the beginning of NaNoWriMo, and again resolved to make our way through it and conquer ALL.

Because ultimately - writing is just that intoxicating.

Talk to us, pumpkins! What are the writerly woes that plot to destroy your (writing) life? Are you, too, participating in NaNoWriMo? (If so - buddies make it better!) And how do you maintain a shred of sanity? TIPS ARE ENTIRELY TOO WELCOME! Leave us a comment below and let us know.

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