I’m having to admit that, sometimes, my NaNoWriMo mantra of don’t think just write can be counterproductive. It’s easy to get trapped in the need to produce a set number of words each day and forget about the rationale behind making the effort in the first place.
While having a reason for not spending a week agonising over one sentence may soothe my inner perfectionist, that headlong rush towards the mirage that’s 50,000 words, along with other distractions like the day job or noisy meetings, can drag a novel off course pretty swiftly. Or it can cause the Muse to run out of fiction entirely and spark a honest-to-god panic.
That’s a bit how the the last week felt to me. Busy networking meetings aren’t a fun outing for a card-carrying introvert. They’re useful, they’re productive, they’re even sort of fun once I get there and get into the swing of things, but they also make me feel like a cabbage for the rest of the day. I head home overwhelmed in search of peace, music, a lack of expectation or need for interaction… and only very rarely is fiction a result of my need to hide myself away for a while. Not even the intense focus of NaNoWriMo and its daily word count goals can change that. Even though I’d really hoped it might.
The next two days had client meetings and fog and driving in crazy traffic and ended with me staring blankly at Jack & Gareth’s reunion scene that I’d so looked forward to writing. Instead… silence. Not even three sensible words in a row, even when I told myself firmly don’t think, just write.
I’ve been writing for long enough to know that getting stuck is part of the game. Like the weather or untimely interruptions. On a normal day, I’d have left the Muse to her own devices for a few days, confident in her working things out in the back of my head. But because it is November, and I’m on a mission… something very close to panic took over. And when I’m in that place, I need a sane voice to remind me that nobody’s dying.
That sane voice took the shape of fellow author Kate Pavelle sharing some insights from a recent Productivity for Writers seminar that she attended. (Note to self: get details!). And just that objective, outside look, suggesting that either the shiny has worn off the story or I’m too scared to let it leave the house, got the Muse out of her panicked flailing and back to the rational.
It’s not so much that the shiny’s worn off – I’m too far into the story for that – but the fact remains that between the reunion scene and the kidnapping I’m faced with the mother of all plot holes. I have a box full of notes, snippets and half-written scenes. I have a truckload of characters I need to work in, a bevy of loose ends and one major emotional conflict. And of course I have no idea how to turn any of these ingredients into tasty boy soup!
And since it’s still November and I don’t want to walk away from the story for a few weeks and let the Muse sort it out at her own pace, I’m trying a purely engineering approach to solving this matter. 😉
- State problem clearly
- Break problem into component steps and describe each step in detail.
- Devise solution for each component step. If stuck, repeat steps 1-3.
I’ll report back with the results in due course.