Preparing for NaNoWriMo & Feeding the Muse to Go the Distance
All right, new flash. Writers are different *head twitches*. This might not be news to any of you, but I imagine some of you are in denial. I know I was for ages. As I mentioned in Friday’s post, there are a lot of activities we must do to write great stories that, to the outside world, look a lot like goofing off. We aren’t goofing off (though without discipline it can become that).
We must fill our creative well before we write, or we have nothing to draw from.
Creative people are a lot like tigers. We do a lot of what looks like laying around and warming our bellies in the sunshine. Yet, what we’re really doing is powering up because, once we go after that first draft, those words can be more elusive than a gazelle that’s doping.
Regular folks who clock in and clock out of jobs in cubicles are grazers. They do the same routine day after day. *munch, munch, munch*. I feel this is often why creative people feel so stifled in these environments. We’re tigers stuffed in a non-tiger role.
TIGER BLOOD! *giggles*
Strong writers are apex predators who lurk, plan and power-up until go-time.
I spent two and a half years researching for my latest book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. I read a lot of books on neuroscience, sociology, communication, the history of communication, leadership, sales, etc. This doesn’t look (to many others) like working. Yet, it was. I was filling my mental reservoir. When my hands met the keyboard, I wrote almost 90,000 words in six weeks.
Same in fiction. I knew I wanted my book to involve Mexican drug cartels. What did I do? I watched A LOT of documentaries, read books, articles, blogs, collected images, and played video games.
Yes, video games. More on that in tomorrow’s post.
Take Time to Fill Up
Too many writers fail to finish NaNo because they haven’t fueled up properly. If one studies any endurance athlete, what do they do before an Iron Man or the Tour de France? They EAT. A LOT. Endurance athletes know they need the extra weight because it isn’t uncommon for participants to lose as much as twenty pounds by race end.
Yet, how many of us go into writing a book with a malnourished, anorexic muse?
Feed the Subconscious
Part of why I love NaNo and Fast Draft is it does a number of things. First, it tires out the analytical side of the brain that wants to edit and make everything “perfect.” DON’T EDIT. If you’ve taken time to feed the muse, your “Boys in the Basement” could be doing some seriously cool mojo, and if you edit that out? You can benevolently tank your story.
Often a lot of the subplots or cool twists and turns come from all the stuff we fed the muse ahead of time. For instance, there is a scene in my book where they find an old drug house and of course teenagers and addicts have been in there and there’s a ton of graffiti. There are the usual pentagrams, devil-worshipping symbols, goat heads, gang signs, profanity, etc. but my fingers typed (seemingly of their own accord) that there was also a veve of Papa Legba.
Huh? Voo-doo in southwest Texas? Where did THAT come from?
Probably a documentary. I began to backspace over it, but then let it ride. My character (who is a tad on the geek side) notices the veve, recognizes it, and finds it odd and “out of place.” This is all that is mentioned of the veve in this book…because my subconscious already had the plot for Book Two and it will apparently involve Voo-doo and Santeria.
My subconscious must have pulled up the multiple news stories of bodies with hearts removed (or headless) who were presumed to have been killed in ritualistic fashion by cartel leaders for otherworldly protection over their operations. My muse was placing the perfect bread crumb in the story to lead to the next one.
But what if I hadn’t “wasted” all that time reading and watching documentaries? What would my muse have been able to draw from? A bag of stale Goldfish or a buffet?
Another reason I love NaNo is that once we tire out the analytical side of the brain, we can fall into a sort of trance, much like a runner’s high. This is where the muse hits overdrive, and, since we are SO immersed in the story, we become part of that world.
This means we’re less likely to lose ideas or make major mistakes because we’re hyper-familiar with the terrain. If we start writing, then put a book away for a month and try to pick it back up, we need to do a lot of refreshing and the story can become jaunty and incongruent.
I recommend an earlier post Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “Spock Brain.”
My recommendation before writing ANY book is total immersion. I read a lot of submissions and many of them have a bunch of fluff and filler and that could have been avoided if the writer had more research to draw from. It’s easier to use setting powerfully if we’ve researched the terrain ahead of time. What do people in certain roles or regions talk like? The more facts, images, and stories (even news stories) we have in our head? The richer the work and the easier to give our writing texture.
Tomorrow, we will discuss some ways to fill the muse. And yes, a lot of it might look like goofing off, but runners preparing for a mega-marathon do a lot of what looks like eating a ginormous bowl of pasta or downing special protein drinks. Not especially glamourous, but essential for success.
Another HUGE help for NaNo is a solid core story problem. I strongly recommend my antagonist class TOMORROW. Use WANA15 for 15% off. Also, Jami Gold has an AWESOME Plotting for Pantsers TONIGHT. Use the promo code gopants for $10 off!
What are your thoughts? What are some things you do to prepare to write a novel? Do you find yourself stuck partway through and have to go do more research because you know you didn’t prep well enough ahead of time?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Also, for all your author branding and social media needs, please check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.