distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

My Novel Has Multiple Personalities

I’m afraid it’s a serious disorder—I only realized how serious yesterday. As you can imagine, I was so dismayed that I packed up my stuff and skulked off to the day job in defeat. Brilliant reaction.

Your comments were right, though. I can’t give up. What is it, NaNoWriMo Day 8?

But what to do when the manuscript talks in different voices, from the mouth of the same character? If she turns her head and she’s one person and turns back and is—snap—someone else? If sometimes I’m writing for one audience and sometimes for another? Teenage slang, literary allusions, tangents to give you nightmares—all in a single monster paragraph? And I must mention the plot. What I have is a setup. And then an outcome. And the events that come in between are covered in fog, sort of sticky, the kind you get upstate on a summer night full of invisible mosquitoes. What? That makes no sense. See what I’m talking about?

As I write this post, I have an hour before I have to get on the subway for work. And all I’ve done for the day is 28 words.

Let’s take a pause and see what happens.

La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la (and in this way an hour passes)…

999 total words for the day—a tangent inspired by breakfast cereal; don’t ask—BUT, and the but is enormous, I’m not sure if this is fixable. Should I just write to the “end” or the closest I can get to it and reconvene later?

This is why people use what is called an outline.

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9 responses to “My Novel Has Multiple Personalities”

  1. If it makes you feel any better, I wrote nothing yesterday. Absolutely squat. And I feel your pain about the lack of outline-progression. Where you have set up and outcome, I have set up, then revamped set up, and then a third weirder attempt at set up (this time with foreshadowing! and vampires!! WTF??).
    Basically, it sucks and can’t decide what it is. But it’s part of the idea of NaNo to just let it *do* that, no?

    It sucks, and I know it’s hard to not even recognize what’s coming out onto the page, but we have to just follow on the excursions i think. I hope.

    Now I need to take more dayquil and not write about vampires. Unless I have to.

  2. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but just keep going. I have no idea where my story is going, and I have about four main characters at the moment, which is entirely the wrong number, but I can’t think about that now, for now all I can do is produce. No detail hang-ups, no outline, not even spell check until December. It’s the only way I’m going to make it.

  3. I agree, you just have to power through this. The time to fix various voices that appear in one graph is in March — National Novel Editing Month (http://www.nanoedmo.net/xoops/). The time to get those words out there is now.
    Not sure if this helps, but the NaNoWriMo guide “No Plot? No Problem” suggests that week 1 is all about excitement and a blaze of words, but week 2 is when everything seems to fall apart. It suggests that you have to keep going, even if you only write a paragraph a day, and if you do, by week 3, things start to come together, characters gel, plots follow actual arcs and so on.
    I don’t think it’s about an outline…it’s about letting go of the need for quality, or perfection, or whatever you want to call it. There’s no way to tell what’s “fixable” until you’ve reached the end and had some distance from the thing.

  4. fuck it, fight forward. Never look back, if it sucks, we’ll deal with it in December. CHARGE!

  5. Steer Nova, Steer! Put a little rain hat on like the Morton Salt Girl, grab that big old ship helm (previously the domain of beardy salty men) and move past the cliffs toward land. When land looks grim move toward the sea again.

  6. Ooh I love Elizabeth’s advice above–I didn’t read that week by week breakdown, but I can see that I’m slowly heading toward, um, where are we going? Of course I’m currently 2 days behind on my word count, so I may be ahead of the game for sputtering, but still…I’m going to keep going. And you must too!

    The way I figure is that even if I’m writing nonsense so far as this novel is concerned, who’s to say I can take snippets and use it somewhere else, another novel, a short story, hell a blog post….

  7. Nova- When I wrote my novel in thirty days last year the POV changed from first to third periodically and I just went with it. One of character’s jobs changed and I went with it. I used the deadline as a way to just get anything down. I can revise anything once it’s down on paper. Who calls the first draft the down draft? Whoever it is, they’re right. Just get it down. All those other decisions and choices can be made later. For now just enjoy the crazy ride.

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