alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions

Deal with the Devil


Today is Thursday, October 25th. Next Thursday is November 1st. In one week I have to start writing a novel.

I say “have to” but it’s not because failure to comply will result it dire physical consequences. There have been no threats of kidnapping, arson, or death by weasels. The real reason I “have to” do this is because I made a deal with myself. I said I would do NaNoWriMo this year and experiment with cranking out a first draft of a novel and having it all done before I had a chance to doubt or second-guess myself.

Oops. Too late.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by Udo Keppler [1912]

I think making a deal with myself might be worse than making one with the devil.

It’s not like I haven’t written a novel before. I have. Two. The first one, a mystery novel set in Philadelphia, I didn’t finish. I’m not a logical thinker, and it was just too hard to be writing my first-ever novel and trying to make all the ends tie up. The second one I finished, but didn’t revise. Make that “haven’t revised.” I love my characters, and large chunks of the story, and hope that one day I come into the skills or the fortitude to dig them out of the mess I made. (Yes, I’m aware that I used the passive voice there, like I think awesome skillz are going to just descend without me having to do any work to acquire them. A girl can hope.)

I pantsed my way through the first two. This time I have A Plan. More than that, I have an Outline that I wrote this spring during a class on Narrative Structure with Bruce Holland Rogers, which I took through the Odyssey Workshop*. I have a setting that doesn’t require any research. I have a premise so fantastical research won’t do any good. All I have to do is look into my past and twist the facts to suit my own ends. No detours down Procrastination Avenue there.

I wrapped up my last open writing project last Friday, packed up its lunch in a kerchief, and released it onto the submission circuit. I told myself that having this week off from self-assigned writing would be good preparation. A breather. A chance to clear my head, steel my will, and maybe make some notes, do some character contemplation in a light-hearted, non-hysterical, low-pressure atmosphere. Instead, I’m paralytic.

I’ve waffled over whether I really am going to try to do it in 30 days, or if I’m going to give myself a slightly more realistic schedule for the first draft, like 90 days. That I really need to revise and submit one more short story before I give my attention to such a massive time-suck. Whether I should be writing this novel or another one. How I’m possibly going to find time to write 50,000 words when the coming month will contain a weekend vacation, Thanksgiving, a writing conference, and the beginning of a new (big) freelance project, all eating into my writing time. I’ve been starting to fantasize about what a nice, uncomplicated, *spacious* month January is. It has a roomy 31 days. Holiday nonsense will be over. I can’t see my freelance schedule from 3 months away, so it must clear, right?

But I guess that’s the point of NaNo. There’s NEVER a good time. So you just pick a time, and you start writing. And next Thursday is as good a time as any.

In the meantime, I’m going to read these prep- and pep-talks from Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier and, today, I’m going to work on what Bruce Holland Rogers calls ‘Big Picture Motivation’.**

And then I’m going to write a damn novel.

What about you?

Sharon Brogan, via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

*It was a really good class. They have more classes coming up soon.
**This isn’t motivation for the characters, but for the writer. It comes from the chapter ‘When the Novel Has To Be Done Yesterday’ from Bruce’s book about writing life, “Word Work.”

Author: Alisa Alering

I write stories. I read stories.

12 thoughts on “Deal with the Devil

  1. Today is Thursday, October 25th. Next Thursday is November 1st. In one week I have to start writing a novel.


    I am taking part in NaNoWriMo this year; and that exact thought was one of the first things I thought of this morning.

    • mlfables, Have you done NaNo before? If so, you are a step ahead of me. Are there any special things you’re doing to prepare? Do you have a plot or a setting or a character or an anything for your novel yet? Do tell!

      Good luck to you!

      • I’ve never done NaNo before, at least not officially. I stumbled across the events website a few years ago (around a week before the event started) and had a go, but I floundered after a couple of days.

        I am better prepared this time round. I’ve plotted out what I am going to write (using the Lester Dent method — — I’ve plotted out a five part series of Urban Fantasy novellas).

        Also, the most important thing is that I already write regularly. Thats why I crashed and burned so early on in the NaNo those years ago, I barely wrote much at all, then all of a sudden I had to find 1600+ words a day.

      • I was going to do NaNo, once, 9 or 10 years ago. I went to an October meet-up/kick-off and then….nothing. I didn’t know what to do and the whole thing just kind of freaked me out.

        You’re right that having an established writing habit just make it easier to hit those 1-2000 words/day. I’m an overwriter so I’m not so worried about making 50k by the end of the month as I am about getting to (near, even) the end of my story.

        Thanks for the link to 3-day. I hadn’t heard of it before. I have the link boomarked to check out.

  2. Good luck with your NaNoWriMo project! I don’t Nano, myself, but I will happily cheer on anyone who does.

    • Margaret, This is my first time doing NaNo. I’ve always thought it was a neat idea, but not suited to my writing habits/style. But I have a novel outlined and need to get it drafted. I decided to try taking advantage of the collective energy of NaNo to get it pounded out. I guess I’ll see whether it turns out to be a good idea.

  3. I am officially threatening you with death by weasels. And kidnapping, but that’s just cause I miss you. 🙂

    I haven’t even *thought* about my NaNo novel yet, other than “OMG gotta think about that, soon” because I’ve been finishing second round revisions on last year’s novel. Once I get that sent to beta readers, all my attention will go to the next week of planning, then two months of writing. (I usually finish a first draft on or around January 6th.)

    So, Godspeed! And remember, you are not alone. There are plenty of weasels waiting.

    • Eliza, Weasels are actually kind of cute. Just…bitey.
      Are you going to do NaNo this year, then? Will you be tracking and posting daily word counts? That’s not the sort of thing I usually do, but I think I’m going to for this special circumstance.

      Just curious, you’ve been concentrating on novels for a while now, right? How many have you completed since CW? Are any at the “final draft” stage/ready to query agents? Do you work on more than one novel at the same time (e.g., drafting one while revising another?) I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to find time to revise my NaNo novel and still write that romance next year.

  4. Lay in lots of supplies. Chocolate and chewy erasers and night owls.

    • Marly, I’m trying to decide if a night owl is a type of candy I’ve never heard of (an old-fashioned southern one) or if it’s just the gentle “hoo-hoo” in my ear that’s supposed to lend moral support.

      I suppose you’ve never done anything so foolish as write one of your novels at breakneck speed?

  5. I vote for chocolate, too! YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO EAT CHOCOLATE! In small quantities, at least…

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