Michaeline: Second Week Whining (A NaNo Tradition)

A hallway of a building that is being torn down. There is a circular light at the end of the dark hall.

Story under construction! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. (Photo by Nelson Alexandre Rocha via Wikimedia Commons)

I haven’t been reading much lately. It’s been busy at work, and I’ve allowed the computer to take over my free time, and then there’s this National Novel Writing Month thing, which I have been neglecting. Neglecting, but still allowing it to take over a lot of my brain space and nervous energy. Seriously, it would be simpler and quicker if I’d stop worrying and just sit down and get a word count in, but for some reason, I think I’m too tired for it. And instead of going to bed like a reasonable adult, I watch just one little short YouTube, and wind up turning the light off far later than I’d planned. It’s a vicious cycle.

A simple piece of advice: don’t search Tim Minchin on YouTube this month, if you want to stick to “just one little short one.” Just don’t. He’s long, and funny, and filthy and you’ll either be flipping through his whole catalogue, or you’ll be too angry to sleep.

I think one of the reasons week two is traditionally the toughest week of NaNo is the same reason I hate Tuesday. You know, the first part was fun. Getting to know the characters, adding new writing buddies, being freshly passionate and promising to write the hell out of this month . . . . . Now that I think about it, February has the same problem. After the resolutions and the mad dash of the first week of January, we’re just blah and tired and not quite sure if it was all a good idea or not.

Well, Chris Baty tells us in his book, No Plot? No Problem that week three will be better, if you put in the angst of week two. And my personal experience during past NaNos says it’s true. It’s just like Wednesday is hump day, and March is a harbinger – the end is in sight. Friday or the spring will be here soon, bringing new joys.

So, if you’ve had a lousy second week, well, be reassured that it is normal. You can spend today cleaning things up in your novel a little bit – write up a summary of who you’ve written so far, and the places they’ve visited. It’s part of the word count of a first draft, after all, and can come in very useful later. Also, you may have forgotten a character or a place in the rush of writing, and just taking a day to evaluate things can trigger a new idea to help you steam through the rest of the month.

And, get to bed early! Tomorrow, November 15, is hump day. The 30th is coming soon!

9 thoughts on “Michaeline: Second Week Whining (A NaNo Tradition)

  1. I had a lousy non-NaNo week – I’m still trying to get back into the story and my characters didn’t want to play ball. I felt the plot was veering off in entirely the wrong direction but I couldn’t find a good way to turn it the way I wanted, no matter how I tried (and I tried pretty hard with a couple of breaks for heavy sulking). I’m going to download Chris Baty’s book and read that tomorrow. A couple of reviewers on Amz said it was as much a cheerleading book as a how-to manual – I think that’s exactly what I need, so thanks!

  2. (-: I wrote a long comment, and then it disappeared into the ether. Sigh.

    Anyway, I do like Chris Baty, mostly because he encourages you to stay in the moment. He warns you what’s ahead for this week, and encourages you to concentrate on that. He explicitly discourages you from looking ahead in the book — first things first, and get those damn words on the page. I don’t know if he’d be useful for a non-deadlined project.

    The inner editor thing is important too. It can be awfully fun to fix stuff, actually. But first you need something to fix.

    I think one big problem is that people don’t want to fix a Jackson Pollock. They either like it as it, or they find it a lot of work to fix it. I mean, if you want to draw traditionally, doing a Jackson Pollock can help you figure out which colors you like and the general energy of a piece (which can be hugely important, if you don’t already know!). But you are on your own with the characterization, the background, the details . . . . Maybe that’s a different exercise, if we are comparing writing to art.

    We’re afraid, too, of losing precious time. But seriously, what’s faster? Getting stuck in a rut for a day or a week or six months, then finally producing a scene? Or just vomiting it out, then doing a second, third, fourth draft? It depends on the writer. And nobody really expects to get stuck for six months on one point. It’s always going to be fine “tomorrow.” So, it’s hard to turn off the inner editor and just do it. We fear the work down the road, and for some reason, the work we’re facing right now isn’t as . . . whatever. Perhaps this is an optimist’s problem? It’ll get better tomorrow. So, do it right today. (Except when it can’t be done right today . . . .)

  3. Michaeline – I think you are exactly right about why week two can be so much harder than week one. The initial excitement has faded and been replaced with random plot holes and “what the heck comes next?” I like the thought that if we can just make it past Day 15 (the Wednesday of NaNo), then that end of the book /week slide will commence and writing will pick up momentum/ease again.

    Today has been a challenge for me, though I have four more hours to turn things around. I watched too much news earlier in the day to be able to slip into a “romantic romp writing” frame of mind easily. I may just take your advice and clean things up and summarized what has happened in the story so far as a way to recharge a bit and prepare for the next writing day.

    • Yes, I finished my post yesterday, and then rewarded myself with a little surfing — and was shocked to see what’s going on in the real world. These events — all of the gun violence in the news — are going to flavor the writing of our generation, I think. Some of us will react with a strong “you can’t take my happy away!” and create some great escapist literature. Others will dig into the darker sides, and create some great psychological literature.

      But that’s the long run. In the short run, the shock is pretty devastating. Every one of you who can write an “up yours” today toward ideological killers and murderers, I salute you. I’m not sure if I can follow through today, myself. But it will be inspiring to hear about those of you who can.

  4. Yes, I finished my post yesterday, and then rewarded myself with a little surfing — and was shocked to see what’s going on in the real world. These events — all of the gun violence in the news — are going to flavor the writing of our generation, I think. Some of us will react with a strong “you can’t take my happy away!” and create some great escapist literature. Others will dig into the darker sides, and create some great psychological literature.

    But that’s the long run. In the short run, the shock is pretty devastating. Every one of you who can write an “up yours” today toward ideological killers and murderers, I salute you. I’m not sure if I can follow through today, myself. But it will be inspiring to hear about those of you who can.

    (Did this comment show up twice? My internet is really weird today. I thought I got that fixed last week.)

    • Janet Reid (literary agent) posted a tweet yesterday that said: “For you novelists: today I needed to escape. To be elsewhere. A novel was my only transport. It doesn’t matter which one, really. Thank you.”

      It’s not brain surgery, but I think light, happy fiction has a role to play in helping us to deal with dark days. Jane Austen lived and wrote through the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and she’s still making the world a happier place 200 years after the Battle of Waterloo.

      • Oh, yes. My literary hero, Wodehouse, was kind of a doofus, but he lived through two world wars. I think he was writing himself out of a dark, dark world.

        There’s a saying out there that horror writers are the nicest, sweetest guys out there because they exorcise their demons. Whereas comedians are often the most tortured kind of jerks . . . . I’ve heard it said about Wodehouse, Thurber . . . . Don’t know if it’s true, or just plucked out of the media filters. But a brief break from the world, a chance to regroup and reorganize, can be just the thing to cope with tragedy.

  5. Pingback: Nancy: NaNo Week Three: What the Hell Am I Writing, Again? | Eight Ladies Writing

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