Thursday, 5 November 2009

Being my character when I'm not: NaNoWriMo update

Halfway through day 5 and 10,755 words into the novel, I'm exhausted. And that's after a day off yesterday.

Sure, there are a million things going on as well as writing a novel in one month (like launching a new issue of an annual journal and preparing for a poetry feature this Sunday, not to mention normal life). It would be easy to blame any one, or all, of those other things, but I'm sure it's not the other things (even if I still don't have the books from the printer). It's definitely NaNo. And I think I know why.

Firstly, writing a novel in one month equals serious lack of sleep. And not for the obvious reason. I'm sure many people choose to stay up later than normal to write. But that's not me. You see, I know I get grumpy when I don't get enough sleep (thanks Mum for so many reminders), and being grumpy and looking after kids all day is not a good mix. So far, I've gone to bed at a normal-for-me time every night bar one, and even I can cope with one late night.

No, it's not writing into the night that's the problem. It's the excitement of being part of NaNo, the excitement of progress, the excitement of believing you can do it. It's the mind refusing to switch off with the laptop. It's the damn novel wanting to be written at every bloody hour on the clock. It's a while since this has happened, especially for consecutive nights, and it's much worse now that I can see those bloody digits on the alarm clock!

The novel itself is going okay. There have been a couple of uninspiring scenes, but as I insist on starting at scene one and writing in order, I've decided to just get through the crap scenes quickly so I can move on to the next ones. This isn't a difficult decision, as I'm quite prepared to write crap, and I have no delusions about what a first draft should be. So, for a first draft, it's fine really.

Instead of considering whether the actual writing is good, I'm trying to think about whether each scene is the kind of scene I want. You know, whether I'm showing things I want to show, whether the reader will identify with my protagonist, whether the scene progresses the story. And if it isn't, well, I'll probably leave it there until some other month anyway. But so far, so good.

It's not just the lack of sleep that's exhausting me. It's the novel itself, although I did at least expect this. Writing a novel means immersing yourself into the world of the novel. Immersing yourself into your character's world, and as I'm using first person, I'm really trying to get into her (Catherine's) headspace. Which is a killer. Not so much because she's not me, because this is one of the things I find relatively simple about writing fiction: I seem to be able to morph into my characters as I click away at the keyboard. (I prefer to write alone so I'm not constantly asked what I'm saying.)

It's not that. It's because 'being' her, thinking like her is mentally exhausting. She's not in a good headspace. In fact, she isn't really in the kind of headspace I want to go, other than fictionally (of course).

She's depressed. Not that she knows it.

But I think that to do a good job, I have to go with her. At least part of the way. And, understandably, there's some reluctance on my part.

Although, now that I think about it, I never turned into a man, let alone a burglar or the... (nah, that would give it away) to write the story coming out in Torpedo 7, or the moronic drink-driving protagonist of the story coming out in Sketch 2. As for my story in fourW, all I can say is, I wish. On second thoughts, perhaps not.

So, maybe NaNoWriMo is here to help me work out whether it's different for a novel. Whether I really do have to go with her to do her story justice. Maybe that's my new NaNo goal?

That, and more sleep.

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