alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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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.”
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