Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo #3 and a Whole Lot of Firsts

Well, November is now upon me and I’m a whopping 5050 words into the project. I’m doing things a bit differently this year in terms of style and characterization, and with the other projects I’m working on I’m having a much different experience than I have in the past.

One of the biggest things I’ve done is ditch my typical first person narrative. I’ve been writing in that style for so long that I’ve really let any third person skills I once had atrophy. A few publishers I’ve submitted to recently have a preference for third, which forced me to go back to it for at least a few thousand words at a time, and because of that I started to realize just how much I was limiting myself as far as story scope is concerned. I like first person because it allows for a more personal style of narrative, almost like two people huddled together, one talking and one listening, across a dimly lit table from each other. It’s intimate, and it allows me to get into one person’s head so deeply it’s as if I’ve become the character for the duration of the story.

Unfortunately, it also seriously limits what I can do with the story. I’m stuck in the head of one person for the entire story, and anything that’s not spoken directly to them or happens outside of their scope of vision is off limits. Any extra information in the story has to be inserted in the form of dialogue, which can be a real pain.

This year I’m writing entirely in third person, somewhere between limited and omnicient, and it’s working very well so far. I say it’s not entirely omnicient because I don’t intend on getting into the thoughts and feelings of each character, but for the main cast it certainly works that way. Think Gibson’s Spook Country, where the chapters alternate between a set of main characters who eventually come together towards the end. That’s the kind of effect I’m going for.

I also have more male characters than ever before in this project, and some of them are very important to the plot. When writing first person, I almost always choose female narrators, mostly because they’re easy for me to identify with and they match my perspective somewhat. I do this also because I’m a bit concerned about not portraying male characters accurately, and I always worry that I’m doing wrong by them somehow. With the acceptance of my story “Porn and the First-Person Shooter,” which was written in third limited and featured a male main, I’ve started to relax somewhat, but there’s always that tiny part of me that’s waiting for someone to email me or run into me at a con and call me a misandrist bitch. Hey, it’s happened to male writers for decades.

I’ve also been a bit too busy and/or lazy to outline the key plot points in advance. So far all I have are notes for the first three chapters I scrawled on a bar napkin on Halloween evening. I have a notebook with character notes, some rough mall outlines (which stores were on what floor while the place was still in business) and minor plot ideas, but no outline. This worries me a bit because I did this the first year and wound up with the first half of something that was much larger (and more directionless) than I’d anticipated. Adding Rain to the mix, which also has no outline, is making me a bit nervous.

I’m doing well, though, all things considered. I’ve been at a hundred percent of my word goal each day, but I’m not racing ahead like my butt is on fire like I did last year. I guess, seeing as I’m a lot more busy this time around, I’m just not into the whole “throw yourself into your work and get it done as quickly as possible” thing this time.

I also don’t have a playlist yet. This is the first year that I haven’t worked alongside a soundtrack, and it feels a bit strange. I’ve been randomizing the songs on my iPod and listening to things from my misc. folder instead.

Chapter One is finished, and I’m making headway into Chapter Two. We’ll see how it goes from there, I guess.

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