Friday, November 13, 2009

"Chance" Story

from Emily Bryan

Well, I've been NaNoWriMo-ing for a little while now and I'm ready to throw in the quill.

For those of you who aren't familiar with National Novel Writing Month, the goal is to produce a 50K word novel by November 30th. Quality of writing is not the main focus. Output is the sole metric by which success is measured. The whole point is to pop your creative cork, silence your internal editor and let the story flow.

Judging from what I've produced, I need my internal editor.


The story flowing out of me is a disjointed mess. I have two guys in my ramblings, either of whom might be the hero, but neither of them seem to be stepping up to don the hero's mantle. My POV is spotty, my sense of place ambiguous. The only thing that seems to be working is the dialogue, which is freakin' hilarious.

Unfortunately, that was not my intent.

When I studied music, I learned about John Cage, an avant garde musician so devoted to the philosophy of randomness his most famous piece is called 4'33' (Four minutes and 33 seconds during which not a single note is played on the theory that some ambient noise might intrude in the concert hall and create "chance music.")

What I've produced doing NaNo is a "chance story." It's literary random noise.

I don't mean this as a slam against anyone for whom the NaNo method is working. If you're happy with your results, God bless you. I'm happy for you. Truly.

But we're all wired differently and I'm done chasing my tail. I've invited my internal editor back out to play so we can make some sense of this mess. I've learned something of value here. I need structure. I need an overarching plan when I write. I need to do all my pre-work instead of charging blithely into word spewing. It doesn't work for me. Like Edison learning thousands of ways not to make a lightbulb, I've learned a way for me not to write a novel.

How about you? Are you doing NaNo? What do you like about it? What's your experience with this method been like?

PS. I'm also at House of Muse today, talking about my real life brush with sexual harrassment. (Don't worry. Like all my stories, this one has a happy ending! And commenters are entered in the drawing for a copy of A CHRISTMAS BALL!) And if you need a giggle, please pop over to . I've heard of fan fiction, but this is the first example of "fan photoshop." It's hysterical, I promise!


Enter for a chance to win $100 gift card on December 1st!


LJCohen November 13, 2009 at 6:27 AM  

You have described my process, exactly. I absolutely need to have a roadmap when I write. I am happy for those who find NaNoWriMo helps them get words on the page. It's just not my process.

April Rickard November 13, 2009 at 7:40 AM  

Nano is fun for me this year. Last year, I went in blindly and created a mess. This year, I paid attention when they encouraged people to plot and prepare in October. Now, I'm having fun...and pretty okay with what I've got going on, too.

My internal editor is very controlling and rude. It's hard for my shy, creative side to create when she's around. At the risk of sounding schizophrenic, I really have to separate the two. Nano is a fun way for me to do that - and feel the pain of others around the world doing the exact same thing.

EmilyBryan November 13, 2009 at 11:22 AM  

LJ--I suspect we have lots of company.

And we shouldn't feel badly if our process is different from others. The final product is the main thing.

EmilyBryan November 13, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

April--I'm glad you're having a positive experience. Perhaps if I'd done my pre-work in October, I would, too.

My internal editor and I have a very good relationship and I need her to do her thing. True, I tend to go forward and back a good deal, but when I've done what I need to know my characters, my daily output is consistent and respectable even with the IE's input.

And I understand the strength that comes when you know others are chasing the same dream. However we cross the finish line at the end of the month, if we write every day, we will have accomplished something of significance.

Tessa McDermid November 16, 2009 at 8:05 AM  

Glad you gave it a try, Emily. My whole thing with Nano is that I've run across a lot of people who want to write but never have. Nano gives them a place to start, with others around them for encouragement. I've been blessed all my life with people who support my writing. However, most of them don't understand why or what I'm doing. Just knowing you're not alone on this solitary writing journey can be freeing.

And while the premise is to write and not edit during the month of November, pre-writing is really stressed. Of course, there again, a lot of people tend to spend their time 'getting ready to write' and then not writing.

Another positive thing I've discovered this year is that a number of Nano writers are teenagers, some as young as 13 (the youngest you can officially join). Kids spending time writing - and writing a lot. As a teacher and mom, I love this aspect.

So, to each her own. Keep writing the books that you do, Emily! We love them.

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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