Preptober: Not Ruined

Just a quick note to say that I broke my streak at 4thewords.com last weekend. I didn’t write (or at least didn’t write there) for two days. That’s a big motivation killer for me. Like Mur Lafferty said in her stream (I’m paraphrasing again), “miss one day, but don’t miss the next.”

This isn’t a failure. I’m reframing it as self-care, though that’s not quite right. There are disruptive forces in life and sometimes they come very close. Sometimes they’re on a collision course. No matter what you do, you just gotta stay in orbit.

Metaphors, how do they work?

Preptober: Stream of villainy

This is a stream-of-consciousness post. When I went back to rewrite this for the blog, I thought, “why? This is how it is.”

I am ambivalent about my villain and that worries me. As I develop these character sheets, getting to know these people and finding out how their own goals and desires either parallel or conflict with the overall plot, I’m starting to find my villain wandering away from the pack. Part of the problem is [SPOILER] but that’s more of a plot difficulty than a character flaw. Or perhaps, the character trait is highlighting a plot flaw that I didn’t see before. Either way, my villain sucks right now.

One of the things I’m most concerned about is throwing too many bad traits at my character, like putting a big neon sign above their head saying “BAD PERSON RIGHT HERE! BAD BAD BAD!” This is something even celebrated writers tend to do from time to time. Make their villain truly evil. Murderer? Sure! Abuser? Bring it! Incestuous Bigot? Spicy! Honestly, the villain doesn’t have to come close to any of these aberrations to be the villain. Mainly, they just have to be on an oppositional path to your protagonist. I need my villain and hero to be zeroing in on the same target, from opposite directions, with similar motives, but opposing values.

Let me think about that again, because I’m onto something here (I’m just brainstorming right now – these are the raw logs friends):

Villain ===> GOAL <=== Hero
Villain = MOTIVES = Hero
Villain <X VALUES X> Hero

This diagram is either helpful or stupid.

My villain and hero should be mirrors of each other (to a certain extent). So similar motives, but differing values. 

  • The hero will steal an apple to feed himself and his family. 
  • The villain will kill the apple seller and take over his stall to feed himself and his family.

GOAL = Family is fed
MOTIVE = Family is hungry
VALUES = Theft vs. Murder

Interesting. The villain’s plan is obviously more successful – he feeds his family for more than a single apple, but causes more suffering. The hero causes little suffering but only solves the problem once.

This is the kind of writing that really works for brainstorming – the kind that gives me the sounding board I need without forcing a friend to sit across from me and not talk. I don’t have friends that can not talk.

So thanks, friends that don’t talk, you’ve been most helpful.

Preptober: Streakin’

Nanowrimo is a metonymy for the streak. It encapsulates the idea that small, incremental steps builds up to the completion of a monumental feat, all by focusing on a single day’s task. With the daily writing of 1,667 words over the course of the month, you fall into November with a finished or nearly finished manuscript of the novel you’ve always wanted to write.

With the increase in Nanowrimo participation and the rise of #authortube, Preptober has become the streak before the streak: A way for writers to work out their story via outline or freewriting, to collect all of the paraphernalia they need to begin the word-slinging marathon, and to practice creating some kind of content on a daily basis. Content creators produce a lot of helpful videos during this time as well, showing their own organizational methods, selling planners (which is fine, no dig here), motivating their viewers that they deserve to achieve their goals and that taking steps forward is what’s important.

While I wouldn’t call myself a content creator, I understand the importance of Preptober, and its dangers. I missed posting two days in a row. I wrote those days, worked on The Forest Book’s outline, worked on other projects. I wrote about 4,500 words in those two days. But I didn’t post here, and Nanowrimo is all about the streak. Keeping the streak alive helps assure success. 

Listening to Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing stream yielded the advice I needed. She has been examining different outlining methods on her Twitch channel and the recording of the Story Grid has the following piece of wisdom in relation to Nanowrimo (I’m paraphrasing): “If you miss a day of writing, make sure you write tomorrow.”

That’s it, that’s the tweet,” but it was what I needed to hear. I had already missed one day of writing and was on the way to missing yesterday as well. Yet, I promised I would write tomorrow and here I am. I have forgiven myself (hopefully on a path to not blaming myself in at all in the future) and picked right back up. And I feel really good writing this. No more “Sorry I haven’t Posted” posts -we’ve all written and read too many of those. This is a “let’s workshop this moment” post where we take the kindness and care we show others and turn in toward ourselves. It feels good, right? See?

I want this Nanowrimo to be the year I finally win and I want to win with this book. I’ve been carrying these people and their lives in my head for so long and during this outlining process, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve “discovered” about them. It’s also given me a chance to be experimental and to take my plot somewhere new. Keep the streak alive, but not at the expense of your self-esteem. Sometimes we stop for a day or two. Sometimes life makes us stop. But no matter what, keep facing toward your goal, so that when you start again, you can see your target clearly. 

(Note: I’m writing this in 4thwords and have been able to keep my streak going there for two weeks. It’s been a big help and I’m hoping to keep it going until the end of the year and beyond.)