So I got another NaNo pep talk today and I found it… disconcerting. Not because the author wasn’t displaying confidence in the NaNoist’s ability to write 50k in a month. No, it was disconcerting because it contained actual, real advice. Like advice that you might take if you were trying to write a real novel you hoped that someone other than yourself might read someday.
The advice was this: skip the doorway. Rather than describing your character walking into a room, just have them be in the room. We don’t usually go into detail about our characters bathroom activities, daily hygiene rituals, favorite method of channel surfing or chosen activity to kill time whilst sitting in rush hour traffic (unless any of those details are important plot points, of course). So why, this pep talker asks, would we spend time describing them walking through that doorway, looking out that window or slamming that car door? He advises that one should pare down the writing to the important points so that one’s reader doesn’t find themselves getting bored with exposition about mundane things which have nothing to do with plot or character development.
This is a good point. And therein lies the source of my discontent. I write about my characters walking through doorways, down hallways and into rooms. I’m pretty sure I’ve written the exact sentence “she walked into the room”, in fact. And I do it because I get caught up in the fact that those five words count towards my word count. I write a superfluous paragraph and am excited that I’m 32 words closer to 50k, rather than acknowledging that those 32 words are unnecessary and, in all likelihood, rather off-putting for a reader who might be trying to get into the story.
Now, I know I said that the point of this whole exercise was to write as terribly as I could possibly allow myself to which means that I certainly shouldn’t be worrying about what a reader might think. But that’s not actually why I’m concerned. I have a pattern in NaNoWriMo which is far more bothersome: I never reach the end.
Factin’s story, in 2009, toped off at over 70k words. Nowhere near the end of the story. Last year’s behemoth, after camp this August, is well over 80k words. (And I’ve already written about my frustration for not finishing the damned thing.) And now? Now I’m 22k words in- nearly halfway to 50k- and I haven’t even had the first big boss battle. (And there are a whole lot of really important plot points that happen between that first battle and the final showdown.) I haven’t written any of that yet.
I’ve been caught up in filler, trying to meet my daily word count by writing about the details of my character walking through that doorway, or closing that latch. And I’d really, really like to reach the end of a story for once. So I have a new task to focus on: write the story, not the word count.
I need to stop worrying about getting from point A to point B and start worrying about point B even being in there so that points C, D, E, F ad nauseum can be reached. I need to write for the sake of moving the plot forward, not for the sake of hitting 50k. I anticipate this being rather difficult, but that’s my goal. Wish me luck!
(22,267 words and counting.)