No Telling

I‘m never so inarticulate as I am in the final days of NaNoWriMo. All my words are used up. Near the end, characters and scenes take up all the room in my brain, jettisoning important functions like remembering to take out the trash or the words to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

I wrote the final scene last night. Not the last scene, but the one I’d been saving as a word count present for the end. Writing out of order makes me happy and provides an interesting jigsaw-puzzle-rewrite.

My God. Rewrite. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

At any rate, I finished the scene, checked the word count, copied and pasted that bad-boy into the NaNo verifier, and TA-DA: 52,596. It’s a funny thing, finishing this 50k challenge. When it’s over you want to go tell everyone you know that you’ve climbed the mountain, seen the future, won the lottery, invented Velcro. It’s an incredible feeling.

But you’ve used up all your words and can’t say anything coherent. The characters in your head begin giving each other awkward, blank looks. It’s that wobbly moment at the end of a carnival ride when you have to remember how to unfasten the belt and rediscover your land-legs. You begin thinking in second-person and have no idea why.

As a favor to everyone, I’m going to find a cup of coffee and take the day to reorient.

Headgames for Editing

No Telling

What have I gotten myself into. That’s not a question, it’s what I continually say aloud to myself between sips of coffee and staring hopelessly at the computer screen.
I wrote over 50,000 words of my Chesaleen story and did it in 28 days. NaNoWriMo was an incredible writing experience for me that alternately ate up my brains and opened possibility. Wouldn’t trade those 28 days for anything. At the end of the ride, though, there’s this pile of words that needs serious revision. Serious. Re-vision.
Step One: Since I wrote the entire thing in unconnected, nonlinear pieces, the first order of business was order. Cutting and pasting the whole mess was interesting and I’m still not quite sure that’s how it should be. Doesn’t matter. The beginning is at the beginning and the end is somewhere near the last of it. In between are some Very Big Holes. Good enough for now. I also made some big cuts of scenes too dreadful to read and left notes to myself in the empty spaces.
I’ve honestly never revised anything longer than twenty or thirty double-spaced pages in my life. And those were papers written years ago for my MA in English. Scholarly business. My creative output tends toward the brief – poetry, flash fiction, short creative nonfiction, blog posts, that kind of thing. I know how to edit a moment, what I’m drowning in right now is editing/chopping/revising/developing a whole series of interconnected moments. It’s a “can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of thing, only more so.
The best advice I’ve found so far was on the National Novel Writing Month website itself. One piece of advice is to sit down and write a 5-7 page synopsis of the novel before doing anything else. The objective here is to nail down the plot tightly so there’s no wallowing in sentences (trees) without first finding the damn forest on the map. Good advice. No one can ache and writhe over a few words or a line quite like a poet, and that’s just wasted energy on a project like this. Plenty of time for that later, after the culling of superfluous scenes and plot confusions.
Step Two: What is the book about? That’s a loaded question and I had to answer it in the synopsis. I thought this would focus things a bit, but instead it amplified the size of Very Big Holes I’ve left willy-nilly all over the story. This is good and bad, I suspect, because I keep opening the synopsis and staring at it, zombie-like, drinking more coffee and hoping for lightning or brilliance or sixty muses dancing on the head of a pin to release what needs releasing onto the pages. That’s not going to happen, though. I’m making peace with that right now and it’s going to take some time.
Step Three: Find some music. I know this sounds like a great way to put off the whole rewrite just a little longer – and it is a delightful procrastination – but without all those dancing muses and electricity and such, I need a little something to put my head where it belongs. In other words, I want to make sure my forest is still filled with loblolly pines instead of wandering off and becoming redwoods. This is not a redwood story. It matters. So here is my playlist thus far. I have to say it helps me slide quickly into the deer woods. If it doesn’t show up like to should, just click on “pop-out player.”

That’s where I am right now. A map and some music and more early-morning hours. With Christmas Break, I’ve got a little free time. All I need now is absolution.