I am seriously not clever with these blog post titles.
Someone come and be clever with the titles for me. Stupid Oklahoma weather is stupid and I feel seriously UNDER the weather.
I’m pretty sure I did a post like this last year, where I told ya’ll not to expect the last year’s NaNo to be this year’s NaNo. Well, it is as true now as it was then. For all of my plotting, all of my excitement, all of my I CAN DO THIS THING attitude, NaNoWriMo 2014 was an absolute bust.
That’s not to say that I’m not writing or that I won’t have a book to put out by 2015, but for everything I tried to do right, the whole thing went absolutely wrong.
It was awful. I cried. I wailed. I whined to my best friends. I stayed up way later than I should have one night determined to make something that wasn’t working WORK for the sake of I’d been working on the damn thing for so long that, by the sheer laws of math, it would succeed.
And I’m really okay with that. I didn’t think I would be okay with that, but I really am.
Storytelling is an art. People probably don’t think it is, but it is. You can be taught storytelling, you can pick up storytelling, you can even glean bits of storytelling from the world around you, but gleaning something and putting it into practice are two completely separate things.
My problem with storytelling is that I want to tell too much. I am the female equivalent of the Silmarillion. So much stuff. Not enough paper to put it on.
Okay, maybe I’m flattering myself a bit, but the point stands. A book has enough room for only a few plot points. You have the main plot and, if you’ve got a series going on, you can have a sub plot, two tops. There is a story arc and character arcs. In a standalone book, all of these things are wrapped up by the end. In a series, a character needs room to grow, but a SINGLE plot point is ended whilst an OVERALL point is still carried over. This goes on for however long the series stands.
The light at the end of the tunnel is mental picture I want you to have here. That light is the culmination of the plot points. Everything leads up to that light and what, exactly, that light is.
There are other things to writing that people don’t mention all that often. Words like ‘world building’ and ‘bible’ or if you want to sound fancy ‘concordance’; things that are mystical and strange and are all so important but sometimes overlooked when you’re a new writer.
My book failed because I tried to do too much with it. It also failed because I was making characters do things they didn’t want to do, be in places they didn’t want to be in, in a world I didn’t understand too well. And I was simply telling the story all kinds of wrong.
I really was. You guys have heard me say that a story will tell you the way it wants to be told. It will also tell you when it’s being told right. Words will come easier. Now, that isn’t to say you won’t have bad writing days, or days where the words are like pulling teeth, but when the words do come, the bad feelings will take a backseat to the story you’re telling.
Here’s the part where I talk about world building, where I tell you to take the time to get to know the world that you’re writing about. You can do it before or after your first draft, depending on your writing preferences, but YOU MUST DO IT. If you don’t know how your world works, you’ll get confused, and so will your readers and then you run the risk of the entire thing falling apart. Why? Because the world as we know it hinges on something. So does the world as your characters know it. Middle Earth hinges on the One Ring not falling into Sauron’s hands, Ender had to win the game so the aliens wouldn’t get us, Katniss won the revolution so the Hunger Games wouldn’t continue, Keiji had to learn how to fight like the Full Metal Bitch so the world would stand a chance against the mimics; you see where I’m going with this? Once you figure out what your world hinges on and WHY, a world you can begin to build. When you build it, a story will come.
If you’re still having trouble, and if you don’t play D&D, I suggest you get yourself a d20 and find a bunch of nerds to play with. Everything you want to know about storytelling is in that game.
At its core, a story is a person who wants something and all kinds of shit gets in the way. The DM is the asshole that puts all the shit in the way, and the characters have to roll a high enough number to get things to go the way they want them to go. Things like your character’s class, race, and alignment (chaotic good/neutral/ evil etc so on and so forth) are the things that influence your character’s actions and reactions to the situation at hand. A good game lasts hours.
A good story practically writes itself.
For those of us who don’t have nerdy friends nearby to be nerdy with (sniff) there are good movies. At their core, movies are like D&D games; there is something a character wants, shit gets in the way.
You can tell a bad movie from a good movie because the bad movies (actors and other things not withstanding) get muddled quickly. ‘Hard to follow’, ‘jumps around’ etc are all criticisms of bad movies. Good movies have their criticisms too, but good movies are pretty well planted on their feet. They’re logical and everything a movie is supposed to be. Things like character growth are all a product of that movie, because the writing was solid.
The author understood that “Oh, but what if this happened?” is NOT always a good thing.
Too much plot does not a good book make.
And that’s the lesson of this NaNoWriMo.
One plot, more writing.