Monday, July 14, 2014

Skeleton Writing

Once again I am participating in Camp NaNo. As much as I'd like to participate in November during regular NaNo, November is always a really busy month--especially for university students.  With exams in December and final assignments due every other day, I've always found NaNo a little too stressful for my liking. April and July have tended to fit better with my schedule. I also like being able to select my word goal.  This month, I set a goal of 30,000 words. At about half way through the month, I am currently on tract with around 1,000 words a day.  The story I'm working on is nearing the end and in total, I have over 40,000 word.  By the time Camp NaNo is done for this month, I should be sitting around 55,000.

A couple months ago, I sat down with some cue cards and wrote down different events or scenes that still needed to happen or that I wanted to happen.  My problem at the time was that I didn't know which order to put them in.  Did I want my MC to discover a certain room first?  Did I want him to have a conversation with another important character next or should that wait until after he'd overhead something else?  For days I stared at my cards and played with different orders.  At last, I forced myself to pick one because I wanted to progress in the writing.  I thought to myself, If the order really bugs you later, you can always move and alter the completed scenes, but if they aren't even written, that won't be easy to do.

Those cue cards are what I'm still going off of and part of the reason I am still running into difficulty.  As I go to write some of the scenes, I start to second guess myself.  These self-doubts sometimes lead to changes such as characters changing names after 10+ pages or rooms moving/disappearing, or even descriptions changing drastically changing.  Basically, my word document is a mess of chaos.  I have notes in the margins for things like: "Is this consistent?"  "Double check your map." "I really don't know how you smoke meat." and "Move later?"  I'm sure future me will love reading back through all of it later.

Some days, the words seem to put themselves on the page and my fingers fly across the keyboard.  On those days, I pull myself to a stop, almost with a grim reluctance.  But then, there's been a few other days where I feel like 100 words is a lot of effort.  This past Thursday-Saturday were a bit like that. I was just at a point in the story where I wasn't sure what I wanted to happen next or what logically should happen next.  When that happens, I force myself to keep going.  To get to the next scene which will hopefully be easier.  I tell myself that right now, all I'm doing is working on the skeleton.  I'm creating the frame for my story so that I know where I'm coming from to where I'm going.  I can always perform surgery later, if I need to, when I go back to flesh it out.

I think that's one of the big things for any NaNo.  It's not about writing the perfect story, but about writing.  About moving forward toward your set or given goal.  No good essay is the same as the first draft and neither is no good novel.  In high school, I don't think I would have understood that.  What I wrote first would have most likely ended being handed in--if tweaked for better sentence structure and grammar.  The past couple years in university, I've had to throw out pages of material because it didn't fit or it was too wordy or it was just garbage.  My best papers went through countless edits and revisions.  Why should it be any different with a novel which is ten times longer (well, depending on the paper) and contains a longer plot?

That said, I will push forward with my skeleton because I know that once the bones are formed, I'll be that much closer to having a finished product that I can be proud of.


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