Nano: Surviving The Crash

How’s your NaNoWriMo going? I hope well.

I hope you don’t need a major pep talk this early in the game, but if you do, remember this:

THE QUALITY OF THE FINAL PRODUCT HAS NO RELATIONSHIP TO THE SPEED, METHOD, OR FEELING OF THE WRITER WHILE WRITING.

(quoting Dean Wesley Smith at his Sacred Cows of Publishing series, the Speed post)

Many writers experience a story-crash at some point while writing. I’ve heard about the 50-page crash where a writer starts out strong and starts to get lost at the 50-page mark (which is somewhere near the first plot point, an important moment).

Story crashes happen to me, too, though they aren’t polite enough to come predictably. I mean, one never expects to start hating the story in the first 5k, right? Which makes the crash even more dangerous, because for some reason I thought the beginning would be exempt. Or… there have been times where I thought I would be exempt because I made it past the second plot point, hey I’m on the home stretch I got this and then fate laughs while I run out of gas.

I don’t want to further tempt fate and say that I’m prepared this time, because I’m not. The most powerful weapon that self-doubt employs is a heat-seeking missile. It will find you, whereever you’re at, no matter the defenses you use. And it will explode at the most inopportune time (even if, just previous, that moment felt like a most opportune time. Heat-seeking missiles of self-doubt have a tendency to do that).

Let’s run on the assumption that it’s coming, and soon. I’ve been watching NaNo threads and posts. A lot of participants this year are already into the 10-15k mark… which means that potential 50-page crash is right around the corner.

It might not be, either. But I do think that being aware that this type of crash is natural can make it easier to talk oneself through it. I mean, we can’t avoid it. We can’t stop it. But please, NaNo-goer, don’t be afraid. How-I-feel-about-the-work and what-words-are-actually-there: these things are different.

Or maybe your story crash happens because it’s not turning out like you planned. Don’t call it a loss. I’ve already made mistakes, too. It takes discipline to not go back and start tweaking to fix those mistakes. It takes willpower to keep an ever-expanding fix-later list or pepper your document with notes of all the things you’re currently unhappy with. It takes courage to keep coming back to something that you know is imperfect and keep working on it anyways. But here’s the catch! No story is perfect.

Everyone survives these crashes differently. If I’m positive it’s a story-problem and not a Rude-problem (that’s not to say I’m actually right because us writer-types love our BS, don’t we?), I come up with a new plan to account for the problem. Say I set up a scene for this great conflict but instead it fizzled out (true story). I make a note on my fix-later list to make this fight awesome and write the aftermath as though it was, indeed, awesome. That’s not easy to do. My fingers twitch, wanting to go back and change it. But what’s the point in tweaking scenes all day? By the time I get to the end I may decide to chop the whole scene, anyways.

Maybe to get past the crash you’ll need to write out of order, tweak your outline, or give a character a complete makeover. What do you need to do to keep yourself butt-in-chair, adding new story to your story? Maybe you’ll need bribes of candy and caffeine. Perhaps an encouraging hug from a loved one, or a necessary kick-in-the-pants.

How are you handling with your story crashes?

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2 Responses to Nano: Surviving The Crash

  1. storymultiverse says:

    I outlined most of the plot progression, so I haven’t had any major story crashes. I am jumping around a bit, because there are a few parts of the novel that I am less thrilled about writing, because they are less firm in my mind. It is quite possible I will crash then. If so, I’ll be sure to take some of the advice in this post!

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