Tuesday, December 02, 2014

In which November ends before I finish 50,000 words

Near the end of The Tempest, the magician Prospero has a fantastic speech in which he anticipates what giving up his magic will feel like:

"Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."

That's how I feel right now about my NaNoWriMo project. Like Prospero, I've created a little world, with its own "cloud-capp'd tow'rs" and "solemn temples," except I've done it with words. But it's time to let it "dissolve"--at least for a bit. I think it needs to lie fallow for a while as I finish up some short stories and other writing projects. And I hope that when I come back to it again, I have a clearer idea of where it is going. 

I would hang my head in shame, except that I don't feel ashamed. Yeah, I didn't make my 50,000 word mark, but I did come up with some good material, some material that surprised me. I even unearthed the magician Samiah, an entirely unforeseen character who turns out to be fun, smart, and essential.

The thing that really got me stuck is that I don't know Harvanna's motivation for her quest. There's no reason for her to drop everything she's doing, and there's no time-frame for her to accomplish this quest. Her life doesn't depend on it, nor does anyone else's; there's no material reward at the end. So why should she go haring off after a magical kraken into the deep North? That's what I have to figure out before I move forward with this.

I am glad I tried it. And I'm ready to do it again next November, with some new information and skills in my quiver. I learned that I can write through some uncertainty. I also learned that I can write without attachment to a scene or an outcome. Early on, I wrote a scene and, at the end of it, realized, "Nope, that conversation went entirely wrong; that's not what happens at all." I worried about it for a minute, wondering if I needed to go back, delete the 2,000 words I'd just written and rewrite them. Would it trip me up if I didn't get it right, right now? Then I decided to chill out, that I would change it later, to keep moving forward. That decision allowed me to approach other scenes from a more playful mindset, not so anxious about "getting it right," but just concentrating on getting it down.

The thing I need to do more of next year (probably starting in the summer) is research and note-taking. If I keep on with Harvanna's story next year, I get to read Moby Dick again and do a ton of whaling,  squid, and deep sea life research. I also will put more thought into the world I'm creating, and know more about its various cultures, politics, religions, languages, etc. Finally, I need to spend more time with characters other than Harvanna, to get to know them from the inside so I can write about them more easily.

If I work on the Big Project, though--the one I've been going on about for years--I get to spend time researching genetics, Disney parks, medieval monasteries, and manuscript making.

Either way, lucky me. :)


Катя said...

"So why should she go haring off after a magical kraken into the deep North?"

Itchy feet. Because she can. For the challenge. Maybe even she doesn't know why.

I can hardly wait to read it. :-)

Kate Lechler said...

Thanks, Kate! Me neither! :)

Yeah, those are the reasons I'm working with now, but it doesn't feel like enough yet. I think the absence of a time limit at this point is contributing to this. It doesn't feel like there's really enough conflict yet . . . just sort of a meandering journey. But I'll get there. When I have a full draft, wanna read it? (It will be a year or two, so no pressure!)