NaNo: Just Fake It

Tomorrow is the big day.

And while my brain spins with all the things I would really like to do before tomorrow and I’m finally realizing that with 15 hours left (much of which are already devoted to other things like work and Halloween festivities) I will not be as “ready” as I’d like to be.

And yet, if I prepared until I felt “ready” I doubt I would ever start a novel again. There’s no way a human being can keep all the necessary novel-things in one brain at one time. Which means, there may be things I haven’t considered yet which will crop up as problems. Major plot holes that hide until I drive right into them. Characters that decide at the last-minute that this isn’t who they are. Or maybe I’ll realize that that somehow, one of my characters broke the space-time continuum managing not only to create a day but be in two places at once, too.

More obvious things have caught me by surprise. Including gravity.

This knot in my stomach happens every time. I have never felt ready to start writing, save the first time I sat down to write without a clue of what I was getting into. So believe me, if you don’t feel ready, you are absolutely not alone. There are thousands of us feeling that way today.

And you absolutely not be alone if you jump in anyways, tomorrow. You have to. You just have to.

I’m not ready. But… Starting tomorrow, progress is king and all the things I do must bow before the king. What I have, I will write. What I don’t have, I will fake.

Here’s Five Ways I Fake It:

1. Fill-In-The-Blanks. My first selection of names had characters sharing initials and sounds. And maybe I haven’t felt it important enough to choose names for supporting characters yet (it’s a long process for me). So for now, they all share the name XXXX. It’s easy enough to search and replace later, once they have names. This goes for all kinds of names, too. Just put something there, come back to it later. Don’t stop telling the story for the sake of that cousin’s neighbor’s fiancee needing a name.

2. Sticky Notes are Neat. For some reason I detested use of notes in Open Office but now I have seen the light! For the sake of forward movement, I can add bits to the side, perhaps a piece of dialog I meant to include, or I want to change the order in which a sequence happens, or flag something that I know I want to change later. “Just pretend it happened that way,” the note whispers.

3. Lists Are Neat, too. I’m not an obsessive list-maker in real life (or rather, I am but I lose them) but for some reason I can keep lists for my story. Things left to do or decide, but my favorite is keeping a list of questions that I know need resolved. It feels pretty darn good to cross them out as they get answered (often, just by writing the story.) It is faster to add it to the list than scroll up and try to change it in the text. Resist the urge!

4. Constraints of time and space are for mortals. Tomorrow, you are the god of this place. You are not mortal; you are writer. Wield that power. Maybe you don’t have the beginning hammered out. Then pick the scene you’re most excited about, one where your characters do that-which-they-must-do or get their faces pwnd or whatever. Word processors make it ridiculously easy to stitch it all together later. Just keep eating the elephant every day. By tackling the stuff you are most prepared to do and getting it out the way, you accomplish three important things. 1. The elephant left to eat gets less and less, which is great for morale. 2. You get familiar with your story and problems can work themselves out before you even get stuck on them. 3. By including the important stuff first, you make sure the important stuff makes it in.

5. Call it a practice scene. Maybe you’ve heard of practice novel, in which an aspiring novelist writes her magnum opus, realizes it’s crap, and says to hell with it, I can write my next one better and in less time. That happened to me with my last year’s NaNo. At around 5,000 words I realized my “story” was just a bunch of random disasters happening to the main character. But instead of trying to fix it mid-flow, I wrote each scene looking for something I’d never written before. And instead of letting myself despair over my craptastical duel scene, I’d remind myself that this is my first duel-which-ends-in-war scene (and that those are hard) or my first break-up scene or my first whatever.

I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen to you at story-level. But since there will be scenes we won’t be happy with for some reason, instead of getting frustrated, I just call it practice. Flag it on a list or with a note, and in December you can either re-write from scratch (having gotten full-length practice for that scene in November) or tweak as necessary. And by coming back to it later, you’ll know what happens in the rest of your story so you might have a more solid idea of exactly what that scene needs to be.

Got any other ways to fake it? How will you keep your story moving forward?

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2 Responses to NaNo: Just Fake It

  1. Kitty says:

    I especially like #4! A little bit of elephant every day… Good luck to you tomorrow!!

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