NaNoWriMo 2009: In Summary

What I learned this year in NaNoWriMo, by Heidi Cullinan

  • Just keep swimming. Write, write fast, write often, and whatever you do, do not fucking stop to think about it. That way lies death.
  • Plot is death. Go ahead and think you know what the plot is, but mostly you don’t know and you shouldn’t. Pretend you’re in control to the degree you need to believe it, and then just do lamaze when your control falls apart. The best parts are the parts that arise out of the moment and your desperation to make it work. Just like in real life.
  • When in doubt, the characters should have sex. Really, it works every time.
  • Don’t worry about the stuff that contradicts itself and/or defies logic. You honestly will figure it out later. Because in the kind of stories you write, the emotion and the relationship is the main gig. Everything else serves it and will morph appropriately to fit. Yes, even reality. Because nobody is actually going to read this story for that stuff. They’re here for the boys and the ride they take. Everything else is secondary.
  • Stab the fucking rules of all kinds in the neck and let them bleed by the side of the road. Even if they’re good rules, they’re not good in a draft. Also, you’re very smart, and you’ll subconsciously follow almost all the ones that you need to. The only thing that matters is the story.
  • No assessments as to story worth, structure, or anything else should be made during drafting. Everything I thought about the story while I wrote it was nearly universally wrong, and every single complaint was either wrong entirely or wrong enough that it should be jettisoned. I thought the pacing was bad. It is not. I thought the characters were too weepy. They are not. I thought it took too long to get to the climax. It does not. I thought the external plot was implausible. It needs some tweaking, but it’s not, not for this story. In short, if I’d have listened to my own nags, I’d have quit or edited stuff that worked.
  • A support network is the most beautiful thing in the world. I had support in lots of ways. I exchanged daily or semi-daily posts with my brilliant, fantastic, wonderful beta reader Sue, and she sent me her draft in kind. Sometimes her little "love this" comments were what pushed me on to the next scene or to the end of the one I was writing. Reading her work was like a reward, and she taught me things, too, like to not go look up the street but say [some street] and just keep writing. Also, to describe some things in more detail. And to keep being brave. I also had the support of the Central Iowa Authors, on twitter and live and in person. I so passionately love the CIAnano group. I love going through the edits on this and thinking, "I wrote that at Smokey Row." "I wrote that part at Borders." One of the hardest scenes to write was at the big CIA Stakeout last Saturday, and I wrote it IN PUBLIC between Kyl and our ML’s husband. When Sue read it, she said, "How did you write this without breaking down?" And I thought about it, and I really believe it was because I was sitting next to friends and surrounded by love and support. Yes, I had to stop and breathe a few times, but mostly I was okay, because I felt very safe. That is so hard to get with even one person, but to have a whole group like that? And they’re so supportive for my release next week, and so excited, and I go there and feel like I’m home. Thanks, Sue, and thanks CIA. And lest we forget, many thanks to and all the fun I had putting in your cameos. Which I need to go update, I’m realizing now. And Dan. We will never forget Dan, who did too many dishes, and listened to me babble, and then when it was done and heard it was mostly intact as a draft, begged to begin reading it.

So this is what I’ve learned this November. My goal now is to finish putting in the corners and the support beams and clearing out the heavy equipment so I can knock up a synopsis and blurb and send this to Dreamspinner. Because I want another publishing date, goddamn it. No, two isn’t enough. I want another one. I want to see Randy’s cover, man!

There will be a chapter one teaser as soon as Dan gets done pointing out where I said black when I meant red and called the characters by each other’s names. For now, a post to my fellow amazons, and then back to the edits. Well, and maybe a shower and a coffee refill.

4 Comments on “NaNoWriMo 2009: In Summary

  1. Very good advice, all. Trying to bear it in mind as I flounder for my ending.
    My mermaid has decided she needs to tell her version of some previous events — which is fine, but it doesn’t get me closer to The End.

    • I felt this way about Sam and his motorcycle lessons. My screaming BUT WE ARE ALREADY AT 120K OH MY GOD did not move him at all. But it worked out fine, and I did get to the end.
      You can do it, Cate! Woot!

  2. some street
    Plus // some street // counts as 4 words. It’s a bonus!
    Thanks Heidi, I couldn’t have made my 50000 without you either.

  3. I love these – especially #3. I am learning so much about my process with this longer form and getting my writing mojo back, which is invaluable. And lemme tell ya, for me? Writing screeplays was SO MUCH EASIER OMGWTFBBQ!!!!!!11010101011!
    Ok, on to knock out 10K today. Pretending to be you is helping hugely. RAWR!

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