Monday, November 11, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 6

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No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Chapter 6: WEEK TWO: Storm Clouds, Plot Flashes, and the Return of Reality

So, we're about halfway through Week Two, and I don't know about you, but at press time my current wordcount is 9419, which puts me 8914 words below par.  I really need to double-down during the week to make up for these useless weekends.

As of roughly today, Baty predicts we'll be hitting the mid-week-two storm. We're off to a great start, but there's no time to congratulate ourselves.

Because now that we've completed our exposition dumps (we're not self-editing this month, so exposition dumps are A-OK), something needs to happen. We have to take that exposition and make it into a story.

It sucks. But largely because it's working. Overwhelmed just means there's more story! Push through, and soon enough, Week Three will arrive! And apparently, Week Three is awesome (I guess we'll learn more about that next week).

So what are some issues we might be having this week?

Well, you might not know what your awesome characters are supposed to do in the awesome world you built. That happened to me one year; I had some fun characters in a fun situation, and they just talked at each other for 40,000 words.  And then December happened. I still have a fondness for those characters, but nothing's coming out of that year's novel attempt, trust me.

But if you don't have a plot, just get your characters to do anything. You'll get an even better sense of who they are and what they want, and that, eventually, will turn into plot.

...Or not. Maybe your characters are turning out to be less awesome than you thought. If Our Hero is kind of a douche and you find yourself writing more about his bumbling sidekick, that's probably a good sign that it's time to switch protagonists. Sit down for a second, see if there's story potential there, and if so, go! But do not delete what you already wrote! It still counts!

So what if you're so overwhelmed you need a day off? Well, sure, go for it, you'll do better pausing now than burning out completely in a few days. But remember that when you do, you're going to fall behind in your wordcount. Staying sane is more important, just be wary.

And now Baty offers us Week Two-specific tips. He kicks off by reminding us: don't worry about getting everything right! That's what revisions are for! Just get it all on paper.

Here in the Nothern Hemisphere, cold and flu season is getting started, and a NaNoer can't really afford to get sick this month. A NaNoer is probably eating like crap and sleeping poorly, though, so we have to shore up the immune system in other ways. So wash your hands and take your vitamins (and if you're eating really poorly, your fiber, too).

Can't stand to push through to 1667 on a given day? Just pop your head in and put in twenty minutes or a couple hundred words.  If nothing else, it shrinks your deficit and keeps you from completely losing momentum.

Baty now gives us some writing exercises for Week Two:

Trick your friends into brainstorming and plotting for you!

Keep a notebook handy, because odds are you'll have a flash of inspiration while doing something completely unrelated.


In the first sidebar of Chapter 5, Baty warns us about the moment, which usually occurs this week, when we decide the story we've started is utter crap and not worth the time we're putting in. Don't give up on the book as a whole, though! Something in there is great, so find it and run with it!

In the second sidebar of the chapter, we get another set of anecdotes from previous winners. This round talks about ways to avoid self-editing.

The third sidebar discusses NaNoers obsessive tendency to check the wordcounts on our word processors. His advice? Write in time chunks, and then check your word count as a reward. I for one like to update my Official Word Count on the NaNoWriMo website after every sprint.

Sidebar the fourth talks about cheats, ways to pad your wordcount and build momentum. Maybe a character stutters, or suffers hearing loss so that all the other characters have to repeat themselves. Maybe someone has a dream -- you can write anything you want here. Get your character reading, and you can cite the book. Really stuck? Find-and-replace every instance of a character's first name with her full name; my book is set in Rome, so everyone has three to six names. And you can always delete your hyphens! Hyphenates count as one word to your spell check.

Backups are key, says the fifth sidebar. One easy, cheap way to back up your novel is to email it to yourself every couple of days. In fact, do it now!
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