NaNoWriMo: Day 3

I know, I said yesterday that reviewing one’s previous day’s progress was a good thing. And I stand by that. But that was in the context of getting back in the writing groove, hanging on to the tone and set up so that transitions will come easier when November is over and the work of rewriting begins.

Other than the urge to start rewriting, there is one other clump of weeds that threatens to ensnare the intrepid writer when looking at past sections of text: the realization of plot creep. For example, there are two entire paragraphs that I didn’t intend sitting in the middle of yesterday’s words, smug and defiant, knowing they have at least another 28 days to zombify—I mean, to remain in the text. And perhaps by then I’ll have bolstered them with other related sections and then they’re as good as carved in marble. They are a crafty couple of paragraphs, and maybe they’ve started plotting my demise. Anything is possible.

That may happen, yes, the unaccounted for segment, development, character, or story arc. Again I have to just note them in my cahier, make sure I remember them as a change from my plan, and keep going. I don’t know how to write about car engines, anyway, but in a novel that includes gender as a theme, I’m not going to strike those pieces, and that would be a rewrite, anyway, which is forbidden.

Besides, plot creep can be a good thing. Often it means we’ve written in some nuances that add depth or believability to the story. It’s not that a witch is cranky and dejected, it’s that she demands her apprentice bring her rice pudding because she has a thing for the Indian chef who prepares it and yet in 30 years of take out, he’s never noticed her from his shop across the street. I might not have intended to delve into the details of Indian cuisine, desserts, and her specific cravings, but it makes her pain feel more real to me. This in turn raises the stakes for her abrasive behavior and asks readers to form a stronger bond to her.

Readers are smart; as a general rule, a person who has picked up your story to read has read hundreds if not thousands of stories before this one. They will make comparisons, recall similar or divergent narratives, pick favorites, get excited or bored, and have an opinion. If those bits of unanticipated storytelling sneak in, give them a chance. By the end of the month, it will be clear which generate interest and create greater depth, and which are offshoots that need pruning. They’re a sign that one is engaged as a writer; they’re not an indicator of bad writing. Chin up!

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Categories: ponderings


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