NaNoWriMo Week 3 Pep Talk: The Fall

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by New Hampshire co-ML Angela D’Onofrio and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.12.17. For more information on Angela and her books, please visit her website.  Want to write a novel? Check out NaNoWrimo.

angela donofrioWelcome to Week 3, Wrimos! By now, you’ve let your monsters loose, like Yvette mentioned at the start of Week 2, and I hope they’re running rampant all over the place. (I’ve got a bear in mine – fun times!) But how long and how far do we let them run?

The answer is: as far and as long as they want. It’s NaNo.

Yvette closed her last pep talk by saying that we need to think of this as a first draft, and I’d like to expand on that a little bit, if you’ll indulge me.

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, at this point, you’re probably battling the urge to listen to your inner editor. I know I do, constantly. Around day 8, I had a scene which, from an editorial point of view, could have had a nice neat little button put on it so I could move on. But there was a little more to possibly be had from it: a cameo of another character waiting in the wings, hoping for some time on the page. I decided to give it to him, even though I’ll probably cut it later, depending on how it drags down the flow of the finished story. I used to think this sort of writing was wasteful, cutting into the time I could have been using to write the rest, until I found this quote by Jane Smiley:

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

Take a moment to think about that one with me, Granite State Wrimos. Really roll it over in your head. Let it rest like a steak fresh from the oven and get good and juicy in your brain. All it has to do is exist. You can do whatever you want. Let your characters sit around a fire, in a coffee shop, in the middle of a busy spaceport, wherever, and drink beverages and yammer at each other while you get to know them. Let them tell you things. You can always take what you learn from them and give it better form later. Don’t focus on later. Be present with your story. Be mindful. Focus on letting it exist.

One of our fellow novelists, MITWriterGirl, did me the great favor of introducing me to Rainbow Rowell, and when I’m not writing, I’m devouring Fangirl. At one point, the protagonist is bemoaning the difficulties of writing original stories to her professor…

“When I’m writing my own stuff, it’s like swimming upstream. Or … falling down a cliff and grabbing at branches, trying to invent the branches as I fall.”
“Yes,” the professor said, reaching out and grasping the air in front of Cath, like she was catching a fly. “That’s how it’s supposed to feel.”

Invent the branches as you fall, or put a few here and there to help you slow the descent … but let the fall happen. Eventually you won’t have to think about making the branches. They’ll just show up for you. Your job is just to fall. The draft is your parachute. Just let it exist. It’ll make sure you reach the ground. And if you start to flip out about it a little, if the gravity and the rush of air start to make you dizzy, just look around and notice the other Wrimos falling around you. Reach for someone else’s hand. Fall together for a little while. It might take some drifting to get close enough – I know, New Hampshire’s a weird, rural patch of metaphorical sky – but you can and will find your skydiving tribe if you look for them. We’re all here. We’re all falling together.

And isn’t the rush, that exhilarating shot of adrenaline, the story of the fall, why we all jumped in the first place? Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. It’s just a quick little month, and even when you’re falling … time flies.

Happy noveling,
~ Ang / chartharsis

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