Thursday, November 15, 2012

My (unorthodox) writing style for Nanowrimo, Part I

My first try at Nanowrimo was in 2006. I began at the beginning and kept writing until the end. I named each day's work as 'Session #(Day)'. Here is a snippet of "The Silk Dragon". This story had no fixed plot, but it grew and grew. At about 10K words, I ran out of things to write about, so I did what any young mother did...incorporated what was on the television at the time. The Wiggles, Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues. Whatever works, works. So this fantasy story incorporated all sorts of fantastic elements that shouldn't have worked together, but somehow did. A quest, a Chosen One, dragons, a Bad Guy to defeat, historical personages (Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain. With Dragons), a Singing Map, a Norse warrior (Freya) and an Aztec princess. Oh, and Clara Barton and Steve Irwin.

And I made it over 50K, barely. 50,018.

Yeah, I still laugh whenever I dig it up and read it. I kept writing, no matter how nonsensical it was or how completely crazy it sounded. 'Write now, edit later'. The strange thing is that I decided to leave it as is and not edit it. After all, who would be interested in reading such a mish-mash?

My second try was in 2011. This time, I had a plan. Anyone who knows me as a writer will gasp in surprise. I studied languages in college and wanted to learn Chinese, so I immersed myself in the language and culture. So The Legacy of the Pearl Dragon was born on Nov. 1, 2011. It introduced the mythical land of Shinwa, an alternate Imperial China. The protagonist, Li Ying, went on a journey to Kemet, an alternate Ancient Egypt. I had scenes that I definitely wanted to include in the story, and I had a beginning, middle and (sort of) end.

I organized it the same way I did "The Silk Dragon", with session numbers, dates and word counts. That worked, for the most part, but as the deadline loomed, I began writing scenes out of order. I also wrote on my laptop and on my desktop, so I could keep an eye on my kids while scribbling.

I coped the text and pasted them where they should be in the main story. I became obsessed with saving, saving, saving my work on both devices, on an external hard drive and CD. It took an incident with spilled coffee and the keyboard to convince me this was necessary.

The Legacy of the Pearl Dragon was again, barely a shade over 50K. I used ideas from this novel-sized monster to write my e-book of short stories, Tales of the Elemental Dragons, Books One and Two. What was meant as a one-shot turned into the beginning of a series.

This year, my Nanowrimo project is titled "The Shadow of the Queen". I wrote a prologue of sorts, but it won't be included in the word count because it's pre-November. This time, my writing process is a bit different. I have two documents, one titled 'Shadow of the Queen' and 'Shadow of the Queen rough cut'.  The first one are scenes that I managed to pen in between taking care of 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 house, and fighting chronic disease. They are completely out of order, since I write whatever strikes me at the time.

The second one is the 'rough cut', like the rough cut of a TV episode or a feature film. The scenes are pasted in somewhat of a coherent order. When I re-read this, it might give me an idea for another scene for the story that bridges between two unrelated ones. Yes, there are contradictions, changed names, impossible travel times between places, and other 'mistakes'.

But the point of Nanowrimo is 'write now, edit later', and like a director/producer/editor of a film, I'll go back and fix those later. What matters is getting the words down on the page, even if it makes no sense, even if no one will read it. Get those thoughts out of your head and break that block that whines, "I don't know what to write!" The ideas will flow if you just do it!

As of today, November 15, I'm at 27009 words. I'm hoping to reach 50K before the end of the month. Keep writing!

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

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