Ask Dayton 89 – NaNoWriMo
My recent foray into the sadist masochist endeavor referred as NaNoWriMo has ended in failure. I’ve been wondering: have you ever derailed yourself when writing a novel or story? Where the story you planned to write end up somewhere completely unexpected, and left you wondering “WTF? Where the hell did that come from?” How did you cope? Did you still finish the project? Did it turn out better or worse for it? And, can you offer any advice to would-be scriveners to help us get back on track?
It happens to the best of us. We start off with what we think is a totally bitchin’ idea. It consumes us for days, maybe even weeks, until we finally sit our asses down and put fingers to keys (or pens to paper, if you’re kicking it old school). Perhaps we go along our merry way, happily committing words to the page until at some point, our fingers, our brains, our self-worth, our growing sense that perhaps our writing energies would be better served if they were channeled into scribbling dirty limericks on the walls of truck stop bathrooms—everything—runs right off the rails and deep into the weeds.
Welcome to the world of writing, my friend. Shit’s hard, ain’t it?
I’m always amused when somebody tells me, “Hey I’ve got this great idea for a story.” It’s so cute when they do that. Okay, so you’ve got an idea. Now what? Ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. Coming up with “an idea” is the easiest part of the writing process. It’s when you start to examine that idea—poking at it, pulling it apart, rearranging its pieces, figuring out if it can stand on its own or if it needs help from something else—that the hard work really gets underway.
What sounds good at the TV Guide synopsis level may end up being a puddle of warm monkey piss once you start seeing what makes it tick, what’s under the hood, and any other half-assed allegory you’d care to use here. There are going to be those times when you find yourself gripped by the overwhelming desire to just tape down your backspace key, so that it can erase from existence everything you’ve ever done while you wander down to the bar and shotgun a fifth of Jack Daniel’s.
Or, as I like to call it, “yesterday.”
Generally speaking, if you’ve hit this kind of wall, more often than not it’s because you didn’t do any of that idea poking, pulling, rearranging, and whatnot I mentioned earlier. You didn’t give the idea a chance to percolate, to marinate, to breathe.
Wow. I’m really just overdosing on metaphorical horseshit today, aren’t I?
On the other hand, there are those wondrous occasions when you start working to flesh out an idea and you soon realize that the story is taking on a life of its own, growing beyond the initial spark and heading off in all sorts of crazy, exciting directions, and sometimes it’s doing stuff you never imagined in the first place. The words are spilling out of your brain so fast your fingers are cramping from trying to keep up or, for you aforementioned old-school types, your pen is calling for a timeout because you’re about to set fire to the paper from the friction.
In either case, the good or the bad, the only way to figure out which way your idea’s going to go is to do the work. That’s why I have so little patience for people who tell me they want to be a writer and they’ve got all these great ideas, but they never seem to actually be writing anything. They’re always looking for the fast lane to success. There are no short cuts, silver bullets, golden tickets, magic beans or express passes. We have to work at it, and a lot of times it’s going to suck, or at least feel a whole lot like it sucks, but you learn to push through it and get the job done, because if you’re doing this for anything other than your own satisfaction, that means you’re dealing with a deadline and/or a contract. The people at the other end of those things usually aren’t impressed with responses like, “Oh, well I just couldn’t make it happen.” You make it happen. Period. It really is just that simple.
Simple to say, that is. The actual work’s a bitch.
Sure, it’s a lot easier when everything’s clicking, but it’s what you do when nothing seems to be working that separates the writers from the wannabes. Writers always have more ideas than they’ll ever have time to write, so if something’s not working you either figure out how to fix it or else you kick that bastard down the stairs or out an airlock and move on to the next thing. That’s the upside to ideas: there’s always another one coming along to fill the gap soon enough.
Welcome to the world of writing, my friend. Shit’s hard, but it’s so worth it.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.