Well, Have a Nap…

But then fire ze missiles!

Yes, I am writing this from post NaNo, post-nap land, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. And stuff.

I may be verging on incoherence.

Still, I’ve wrapped up my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, bringing Shaken‘s current wordcount to 76,000-ish… and I still haven’t finished up the plot! I suppose that’s good, since I was worried it would be too short.

I’m guessing I have about 10K left to write. Approximately. That’ll put the rough draft at 85K, which is exactly what I was aiming for! Woohoo!

Tonight I’ll have some wine, decorate my Christmas/Yule/Solstice tree, watch some holiday movies, and engage in other festive shenanigans. But then naptime will be over tomorrow morning and it will be time to get back to work and finish that rough draft.

Why Did I Like This Character Again?

The first blush of romance has faded. You’ve been spending hours together every day. You thought you loved each and every one of this person’s quirks. Then suddenly you realize that the person you’re with doesn’t like peanut butter or Buffy and do you even know this person at all?!

I’m talking, dear readers, about the moment when you realize you don’t like your main character.

My fiance likes to joke that someday my distinguishing characteristic as a writer will be my unlikable female main characters. Eva, my first protagonist, is a tough-as-nails thief and con artist, cast in the mold of Scarlett O’Hara (whom I love, incidentally). Drew, as he reads this first book, often feels that Eva is unlikable in the extreme. A bitch, even.

My current main character, named Mitzy Morgan, is an alcoholic detective in an alternate universe San Francisco, where everyone has a magical talent. She’s a privileged white girl with a special talent, who has never had to work hard for anything, and she’ll do just about anything to prove she deserves what she’s got. She is a bitch.

Today I realized that I’m sick of her.

I mistook being amused by her for liking her, and the amusement has worn off. She’s bitchy, she’s moody, and sometimes she’s just a pain to deal with.

In complaining about this, I realized she also lacks any of the depth most of my characters have. She never surprises me by taking the plot where she wants it to go. She does exactly what I tell her to, but she complains about it along the way. She’s a puppet, essentially, and I’m tired of making her dance.

What to do? I realize this is a pretty common NaNoWriMo problem. I, however, adopted an unconventional method of solution.

I whipped out the trusty tarot deck.

Some of you may wonder why tarot is a category on this blog, and someday I’ll write in detail about why the tarot is a helpful tool for writers. Today I’ll just tell you that the imagery and characters of the tarot are highly archetypal, and sometimes thinking with a different part of your brain can shake up your writing process.

After all, I came up with this plot using a simple tarot game.

Anyway, I shuffled the deck and said, “Oh mighty tarot deck, tell me why I should like this character!

Okay, that’s not actually what I said, but I did consider that question when looking at the imagery. I came up with the following list of personality traits:

  • passionate
  • loving spirit
  • “dances her dreams and desires out loud” — this is a quote from the booklet that came with the deck. My translation: She’s an open book. You get what you see.
  • Vulnerable
  • Finds opportunity everywhere
  • Tenacious
  • Independent
  • Capable of clear-headed observation
  • Naive, in that privileged white girl sort of way
  • Lives life — really lives it

There are some redeeming characteristics in this list, aren’t there? Obviously, this isn’t the full Mitzy, but these are some things that I already knew about her, and failed to develop in the book. I’m doing her an injustice by playing up her amusing–and unlikable–characteristics.

Yes, the third act of the novel will be her redemption, but something has to carry the reader into that third act. I’ve now plotted some additional scenes that will show these traits and give her the depth that she needs.

The point is, I’m not dumping her. I realize that our honeymoon period is over, and it’s time to start appreciating those quirks that have started to put me off.

So, readers, I ask you: Have you ever realized you disliked your main character? How did you solve that problem? What are some unlikable characters that you actually love? (Scarlett O’Hara and Carrie Bradshaw both spring to mind for me.)

Happy 11/11/11

It’s not a holiday, but it should be. I guess.

Anyway, sorry for the lack of posts and comments on others’ posts, I’ve just been very, very busy. Here’s a widget to tide you over until I spend Sunday writing:

I’m not sure why the graph is red. I’m actually doing pretty well, ahead of schedule and everything. I feel as though it’s judging me… but now you can, too, just by watching the widget! Enjoy!

Early NaNoWriMo Lessons

Well, three days and 8000 words in, and I’ve already learned a few things.

Day one started on a low note (“But… I’m sleepy… I don’t want to work!”) and ended on a high note (“Woo! This is gonna be awesome! I just wrote a great scene!”). The high note carried into day two, but didn’t carry me through, and yesterday ended on a very low note (“I’m tired… I went to the eye doctor today… I’ve done a week’s worth of writing in two days! Is it December yet?”).

Today I needed a shake-up, and that’s how I realized what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Seeing people is good. I hadn’t really left my apartment in four days, except for the brief unpleasant trip to the eye doctor, so I was going a little Shining stir-crazy. Today I went to Barnes and Noble to write at Starbucks, and the simple change of scenery–plus a healthy dose of caffeine–helped with the crazies. I knocked out a thousand words there and a thousand words at home after lunch no problem.
  2. I edit a lot. I never realized before how much I edit as I go. Very rarely do I see a poorly constructed or just plain bad sentence in my rough drafts, because I rewrite as I go. This is what makes me a slow writer compared to some, I think.
  3. I can silence the Inner Editor by defying her. On day one, I made a tiny grammatical error. I started to go back and change it, then realized what I was doing. I stared at the error. It stared at me. I wrote a new sentence… and moved on with the scene. Oh horror of horrors, I left it there! And the Inner Editor shut her mouth when she realized that I’m the boss.
  4. I am lazy. Writing 3000 words every day has been strenuous, but 2000 a day? No problem. I’ve written in the last three days what might normally take me two weeks. That’s just absurd. After this month is over, I’m leaving the 1000 word per day goal in the kiddie leagues where it belongs.
How’s your NaNoWriMo trek going? Learned anything about your own process yet?

Get Ready, Get Set, Goals!

And a happy Halloween to you.

NaNoWriMo officially starts tomorrow–or tonight, if you’re a night owl, I suppose. I’m entering panic mode, looking at my Scrivener outline and thinking, “There’s just not enough story here for a full novel, I’ll never get 50,000 words, why am I doing this, what’s the matter with me, I’M GOING TO GET EATEN BY A PLOT SHARK AND MY SOUL WILL BE DEVOURED BY STORY DEMONS!!”

That’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Most of those thoughts come from the Inner Editor, and it’s about time to gag her and stuff her into the never-opened water heater closet in the bathroom. On a rational level, I know I have a good, long outline worth at least 60,000 words, and that outline will more than likely expand as I go. It always does. I also know that 1,667 words a day (even if that’s a minimum), is not that many words.

So here is my cool, collected list of attainable goals for NaNoWriMo:

  • Write 1,667 words every day, at minimum.
  • Learn to tell the Inner Editor to shut the hell up.
  • Learn to let a first draft be a first draft. No more agonizing for an hour over “extracted” versus “untangled.”
  • Finish my current novel, Shaken (This one might be a lofty goal, but no one ever accidentally shot a friend by aiming high.)
  • Spend at least one hour every week refueling, as per Emmie Mears’s challenge.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, what are your goals? If not, tell me some of your goals for November anyway!