All of November I have been in the NaNoWriMo mode -- trying to write 50,000 words of a novel. I don't consider that a great challenge and find I'm averaging about 2500 a day, which puts me a bit ahead even though there was a three-day weekend when I didn't write at all. The organization cheerily sends out pep talks once a week -- the organizers handle it like a great game. I'm to old to play games. I just decided to tackle a once started and then dumped novel idea again and see how it goes. [Google NaNoWriMo if this is a new term to you.]
I've discovered what might be a bell shaped curve. It was steeply up and then a nice plateau of getting on with the story and watching it become more complex. Now, I have either started down the opposite side or hit a dip. I am truly questioning the worth of the story -- no, really the worth of my writing of the story. Now and then I really like a couple of pages, but mostly I think: this is not interesting enough to hold readers' attention this far. The plot is unfolding too slowly.
Yes, yes, I know there's rewriting to do but in NaNoWriMo mode one doesn't rewrite but plunges ahead accumulating words. But in that mode, it's hard to say, well, I'll probably jettison those 5 pages and I need to add X to spice up the story. It's reaching a point when it seems very, very messy. I've got a story mapped out in my head, things that will happen. The plot from that earlier idea that still fascinates me.
This morning I'm thinking of this process like making yeast bread. The first steps are very easy, add the milk or water, the butter, the yeast and eggs if it has them. Beat into a nice batter. That I thought I was doing with the novel. Then one adds flour cup by cup. It takes a bit to add enough flour to make a kneedable dough. At that early stage it is sticky, gooey, it's hard to mix in the flour but not at all pleasant to the hands. When it becomes kneedable it is a joy to work with. One needs to keep adding flour until she can dump it onto the floured surface and turn it into a smooth, elastic ball that feels alive in the hands. Then it can be put to rise and then shaped into loaves and baked until it becomes something delicious and even nutritious.
I'll call this the baker's view of novel writing. I love to bake bread and I love to write. Mostly I trust the methods of both, but I trust novels far less. Everyone needs and loves bread, especially warm from the oven. Novels stop being analogous at that point. Another novel is not needed or wanted [least of all by publishers] and it doesn't necessarily smell good, look good or otherwise appeal. At this point the metaphor is going south and I should drop this line of thinking or I won't get today's 2500 words written.
ELDER MUSIC: Drinking Songs 3 - This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge an...
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