Friday, November 16, 2007

NaSto Update Numero Dos

So we are officially half-way through NaSto and, predictably, I am behind. This situation is not being helped by the presence of Assassin’s Creed in my home (which I will discuss at length later). I also had to edit a story for Ideomancer (w00t) and edit another story that didn’t make the grade at Writer’s of the Future and send that one back out (okay, I guess I didn’t have to do that last one, but I did, and I think the story is vastly improved for it. Now hopefully it will sell). Still, I persevere onward, as noted in this updated and snazzier word count:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
10,183 / 25,000

So things are going well, if not superb. I hope to catch up some this weekend. I noticed last weekend, though, that I’ve been spreading my words around a lot, jumping from story to story rather than committing to a single story and powering through it. And I also noticed that I was jumping away from certain stories right at the point where the story was starting to establish itself and require an honest-to-Jesus plot.

I will admit, it worries me that I’m not very good at creating compelling conflicts, and, through extension, good plots. I’ve been trying to stare down that dragon for the last week or so, and I think I’ve made some good discoveries so far. For one, I think that one of my biggest problems is actually theme, or meaning, as in this Jim Van Pelt post. My instinct is to go for a lot of themes that are oversimplified and possibly heavy-handed, and I know enough to know that they are oversimplified and heavy-handed, and that prevents me from writing them. Then I get scared that every theme I go for is going to end up being that way, and I can’t commit to what I want the story to be. I can create a background and sow the seeds of a good story, but when it’s time to crystallize and really think about where it’s headed, I get gun-shy. One major part of this is the fear that I will waste a really good beginning on an ultimately vapid story.

I’ve been approaching this from two different angles. Number one is simply thinking about each story more during my off-time. I used to dread doing this, because a lot of writing was instinctive, and if I thought about the story too much, I’d get tired of it and wouldn’t write it. Now, I’m trying to think about the story more, and forcing it down onto the page. Nancy Fulda discusses “stealing the muse's diary;” I see this as along the same lines.

The second approach is to just muscle through it a dare to be stupid. I actually just decided on this; maybe I should just go with the dumb theme once in awhile, let it run to the end, and see what happens. I think I will. I’ll let you know as this progresses. Worst case is the story doesn’t get published, right? And if it doesn’t, then I can go back and start over, right? Might as well give ‘er a go.

In the meantime, to force myself to focus on these issues, I will no longer be allowed to work on new pieces. No more jumping. I have worked on eight pieces (not the pseudo-story I wrote for Carrie) during NaSto, and unless the muse just kidnaps me, at eight it will remain. This has already forced me to delve farther than I had previously into each story; hopefully it will force me to actually complete a couple.


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