Ever since I rather irrationally decided to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo, I have expected to run into problems. Accurately enough, I have. What surprises me, though, is that they are different problems than what I expected. Below is a list of problems I’ve had, that I did not predict:
1) Language. I was under the impression that my English was pretty good at the moment, but for some reason it seems to have deteriorated quickly after I left the US. It’s like they removed my chip on the border. On the bright side, writing in English on NaNo has a benefit I never really considered. Since the English language, unlike the Norwegian one, does not pile words together, a sentence including the words banana case, coffee table and trash can, is three words longer than it would have been in Norwegian. This certainly helps the word count.
2) Word count. I did predict this being a problem. What I did not predict, however, was that I would be inclined to cheat myself on this accord. Don’t get me wrong – I religiously write down the exact word count I have each day, and I update my NaNoStats at the end of the day (and sometimes several times a day, for no apparent reason). However, when I normally write, I try to leave out spare words (in this sentence I normally would have edited out “try to”, because it is actually accurate that I don’t just try this, I do it). But since NaNo is about quantity, not quality (they said it, not I), and since it also is about not editing as you go, I now have tried to let go of my habit of automatically (try to) improve the quality of my text, even at an early draft, by leaving out excessive words. Instead, I have learned to embrace the wordiness. You’d be surprised how much crap I’ve been able to accumulate this way.
3) Misbehaving characters. I’ve heard of those. I’ve run across one or two. But nothing like this. My main character had existed in some form in my head for a couple of years, actually. But when I started writing (over) the initial scenes of this project, she was NOTHING like I expected her to. Gradually, over the first (current) 14 pages, I have been able to slightly move her into a more acceptable direction. She is still different than what she used to be, but at least different in a good way (I think). I am not entirely sure it’s a good thing that it took a while before I even liked her, while I immediately took to her (supposed to be) annoying friend.
4) Female characters. Being female myself, it took me slightly by surprise that I have a hard time portraying believable female characters. For some reason, I feel more comfortable with male characters. So when I decided to go for a female one, I’m having significant issues making her “right” (see previous point). The male characters flow better.
5) Writer’s block. I knew I was a procrastinator. I did not know I also suffered writer’s block. Normally you don’t find me wasting time staring at a blank document – you find me wasting time on Facebook, or playing Solitaire, or doing laundry, or whatever else there is to avoid working on what I’ supposed to do. Therefore, I was under the impression that if only I could stop the procrastinating, I could write. I was wrong. Even if I don’t make even the slightest attempt to open “School of Wizardry” (which I highly WARN you about if you, like me, are easily distracted), it can take hours before I have the slightest idea what to write. This discovery is somewhat disconcerting.
6) Ability to fight writer’s block. (This isn’t exactly a problem, is it? Oh, well, it certainly was unexpected). This is not so much a new discovery, as a transfer of my previous experiences with procrastination. If I am stuck somewhere, instead of giving up and logging onto Facebook (or, as I have now, stare at a blank document), what I need to do is skip the tricky part and write something else. It works for my thesis, and it works on the novel. And, surprise, surprise, when you go back, you might have unstuck yourself by accident.
7) Crappy writing. This was not exactly a bolt from the blue either, but boy, it stings. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything this blatant, and I’ve never written anything this crude. And by crude I also mean blunt, offensive, tasteless and lacking of tact. I never expected to consider including poop-jokes in a novel, but now I have (considered it. I haven’t yet sunk that deep).
There are other things I also could mention, but let’s face it – I don’t have the time to write long blog posts. Neither do I have the time to proof read them. In fact, I only have the time to scribble something down, not unlike what you might write on a toilet wall…