Your Manuscript is a Hawt Mess

Yesterday was a fantastic day for me.

I got up, wrote my way through my current action scene and started the end of Act I of my current manuscript. It felt glorious. I’ve been in the middle of this particular action scene for, oh, weeks. I might have gotten through it sooner but as I generally only have 1 hour a day set aside for writing and working on this book most of the time, I just had to keep pecking at it until I’d failed in enough ways to find the best way to approach it.

This method is very effective for me. However, it leaves a trail of broken paragraphs, half-finished and discarded scenes and general mayhem behind me.

So today, I’m combing through the manuscript that I have and storing all my non-connecting scenes in my ‘scraps’ bin that I keep with all my projects and just focusing on the manuscript flowing smoothly from point A to point B behind me. This is not an edit people. This is still drafting for me. However, if I get tied up later when I’m down by point J, I can go back and skim through what I’m keeping of point H,G, and I to identify where I went off track.

It’s a messy method of novel writing. I have started outlining….sort of.

I am calling it a Tailored Pantsing approach.

In normal pantsing I’d write several hundred unconnected pages without any care for how they all stitch together, then go through in my Editing phase with scissors and a red marker, linking and stitching my novel back together. Then I’d do about a dozen more edits to complete the book.

However I still can’t hold too closely to a tight outline. I feel strangled if all my steps are laid out so cleanly. Instead, I’ve drawn a sort of map that the story is going to follow.

So I have a chart: Opening/Hook -> Inciting Incident -> Act Two with x event and so on until I’ve reached the end.

Now instead of just writing twelve random scenes, I’m writing twelve versions of the scene that I need and then tossing the other 11 into the scrap pile a lot sooner and moving on.

The feeling of trailblazing that I love in writing is still there, but I’m not dangling from cliffs anymore.

All first drafts are gross messes though. We make typos and we accidentally forget that we gave our main protagonist a gun the scene before and heck, novels are long and holding such a detailed story in your head for an hour a day over the course of months is tricky. But here we are, machetes in hand, ready to take it on anyway.

 

Getting UnBlocked

So, I don’t want to say that I have ‘Writers Block’ right now, rather I think it’s more accurate to say that I have an annoyance for the way my current story is going and I need to haul it all in and go through what I’ve got to figure out where I’m going from here.

If you’re an outliner or planning type writer, this is probably not applicable, but if you’re like me and a pantser, you can probably relate.

When I am writing, I start out with an idea, in the case of my current story, “What would happen if a country girl is in love with a mysterious neighbor who always wears long sleeves? What is he hiding underneath there?”

Then after I get my mental image prompt, I go into a sort of stretching of the idea. I answer my own questions through scenes that bubble from that original idea. If you want to see another author struggle with this like I do, may I suggest Libba Bray (https://libbabray.wordpress.com/)?

Anyway.
So here I am, staring at day 40 of this choice I’ve made to DO The Thing and in this case, it’s to get up every morning and write and take what comes out and make it into a book of some type, length and style. And yet here I am with this idea that I’m still convinced is fucking kickass and I have ALL THESE PIECES and I’ve forgotten what it’s supposed to look like. Or, worse, I know what I’m pretty sure I want it to look like, but I’m not sure I’ve got the right materials to build it.

So I go back to try and make a list of things and figure out if I can build what I need but I’m stuck on splinters and fragments of ideas.

Today’s (and yesterday’s if I’m honest) challenge is going to be to get down everything that I have so far and pin down where this story is going and put it in some sort of order to follow through.

The Now Habit, a book I’ve been reading to fight my natural procrastination inclinations, states that every project is just a series of starts. That we can’t think of our work as just ‘finishing’ but instead must think of it as small starts.

Today I start tugging at an outline and going from there.

Nano Update Part 4

Well, just like a business has it’s dips and peaks, my NaNo is now officially in what I believe professionals call, “The Swampy Middle.”

My protagonists are struggling to find their purpose and since I am not much of an outline writer, we are having issues staying on top in the composing and drafting process of writing. I have a basic road that I’m following, but as overall structure of my novel is something I am coming up with as I go, I’m running into problems with keeping everything on track. Tangents happen at this stage in writing for me.

I think I’ve used the metaphor of gardener versus architect before and this part is the most apt to compare the two. As I am letting my little seeds sprout and watering them and tending them, they have all decided that they are going to lean to the right at the same time. So I have to figure out a way to get them to straighten up OR make up my mind if right is the way that the story is going to go.

In short, I hate this part.

Writing is fun. It is the process of creating and sharing what is in my head with people who live outside of it. Yet, when I get to the hard parts like this, it’s easy to let the distractions of the outside world interfere more with the creation process. After all, no one is going to tell me that I’m not being productive if I spend my non-writing time cleaning my house or cooking. If I’m focused for an hour on the household budget when I should be digging into the word garden, only I know that I’m procrastinating.

Heads up everyone: I’m procrastinating.

Right now the benchmark for NaNoWriMo should be 16067 and the last I checked, I’m sitting in the 11000s. So, welcome to the land of catching up.

I’d be more worried about it if I knew I had less time. My new goal for writing is to pound out at least 2k a day until I catch up and then TRY and have a day where I have some word slack so I can enjoy the holidays without knowing that my word count is going to kill me. I have had some technical challenges in using a tablet to write instead of a laptop. (Another story…).

How is everyone else doing? If you’re participating in NaNo, please leave a comment and share your woes. We’re all in this mess together after all and it’s ok if you’re also stuck in the trenches of the swampy middle. Just as long as we keep walking, we’ll eventually get out of here.