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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNoWriMo: The Middle

We’re officially over halfway through this thing now. Congratulations! According to my stats, I’m no longer looking at a December 30th finish date, so I’ll at least be able to enjoy Christmas! (Thanksgiving is looking grim. I should have bought that inflatable turkey I saw at the record store). I’m feeling better about my progress, but I keep thinking about all the pep talks that focus on getting you through the most tiring portion of your novel: The Middle. It’s such an energy-sucking swamp because this is the point before your second wind, when you’re coming off the high of starting this thing and getting down into the grit of it all, when you’ve got to WORK to get things where you want them. It’s tough, coming up with 25,000 words and knowing you’ve got another 25,000 to go. But this big, bad Middle business? I’m kind of enjoying it.

Now, this might be a result of not having thought things through, but it seems like I’m finally, really figuring things out in my story. Characters are starting to settle into their personalities, and interesting situations keep popping up–just two days ago, my protagonist was breaking into the asylum she lives in (right, maybe we’ll get to explaining that later) and crashed a poker game where she won extra meds and an apprenticeship with the groundskeeper. Now she’s free to blackmail everyone because they were drinking on the job at the mental institution. Yippee! The BAD news is that my story is rapidly approaching the main event, and I’m not sure how much more story I’ve got left to tell once that’s over. In short: the pacing is off.

After searching through the NaNoWriMo forums, I see that many people seem to have done some serious prep work in anticipation for their month-long writing marathon. They’ve got all sorts of stepping stones to hop around on in their stories due to the fact that they actually PLANNED their novels out, and no one seems to be concerned with pacing. Everyone’s talking about their writing software and their electronic storyboards, and I’m thinking . . . there’s something about storyboarding that intimidates me. It shouldn’t, though, because I probably need it for navigation purposes, and to get myself out of those dead-end scenes that come out of nowhere every so often. For me, The Middle lacks stepping stones, and is actually kind of a bog/quicksand trap with boggarts in it. Everything looks fine on the surface, but at the same time, it makes me wonder how many now-mummified bog ponies have gone before me. (Shhh. Ponies don’t write, we know. Just go with it.)

I don’t have the foggiest idea as to how to begin a storyboard. Wait, retract that. I have a foggy idea, but I’d like to think there’s more to this magical storyboarding than putting each event of your novel on separate pieces of paper and stringing them out like beads. Is there more than that? In my mind, a storyboard should have those events, but should also include details about the scene, what people are wearing and acting like, the weather–the kind of things you’d expect to see if you were writing a screenplay. Which brings up another question. If you’re writing a novel, are you supposed to write it as a screenplay first? Is that what this turns into? If I write a NaNo novel that way, can I also enter it in Script Frenzy? (I’m scared you might be raking at your cheeks now. Pull your hands away from your face and take a deep breath.) I love the apparent functionality of the storyboard, but when it comes down to it, it makes me think I’ll be writing a separate, more visual sort of story, which seems like it will get me off track more than anything. But it apparently is working for loads of people, many well-known authors included, so I will definitely have a try at it some time soon.

Regardless of how great (or awful) an idea storyboarding might have been, it’s a little late in the month for me to be changing tactics. I’m sticking with the mapless approach to tackling The Middle and plan on wandering through the rest of this year’s novel, directionless and scouting for stepping stones. With luck, I’ll see you on the other side.

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