Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writer's Update: WALLS

So November is 3 days gone here in Australia, and with it went NaNoWriMo 2013. By the end of November, I had validated my novel WALLS at 60,074 words and was a NaNo winner an extra 10K over the finish line, but my novel is far from finished.

The last 5-10K were difficult to write for a range of reasons. Although I have won NaNo, I don't want to stop writing my novel, but I had reached a part where my reactions to the things I was writing showed how emotionally invested I was - am - in my characters, Mildred and Kovax. The things I was revealing about Kovax's past were making me feel sad, and after a conversation with my boyfriend containing many spoilers, we both agreed that I'm actually a horrible person who secretly enjoys hurting both my characters and myself and just generally fucking with everybody's heads.

Once I'd pushed myself through the sad part and connected it to a scene I'd had the urge to write ahead of myself (screw chronology!), I came to a sudden stand-still. Some would call it the dreaded Writer's Block. I really had to force myself to write the last couple of thousand of words, not because it's making me sad or I'm too emotionally invested... just because the excitement lulled for a bit and I think the last chapter I wrote was just plain old boring in comparison when it shouldn't be, because something very big happened in it.

When I was in my final two years of high-school, I did media studies, in which we did a unit each year on 'Narrative'. One of the things we discussed in class was 'Narrative Intensity'. Most stories, no matter what form they are told in, have periods of low-intensity plot cause and effect development between minor climaxes or narrative triggers which build in intensity until the final climax is reached. The point of having the low-intensity periods between the climaxes and narrative triggers is because the audience is not likely to be able to maintain the emotional energy required for high-intensity shock-upon-shock absolute action-packed stories without the lull periods in between each build-up.

It feels like this is where the low-intensity period should be after what happened in the last few chapters, but I'm worried about two things:
1) Is the reader going to be as bored with the next chapter as I currently am, or will it fulfill the purpose of giving them a moment to gather their wits?
And 2) Consider what happened in this next chapter, should it really be so low-intensity?

Maybe it's just me, because I'm writing it, and I want to go back to being emotionally involved in Mil and Kovax instead of moving along with the story. I suppose it's all just a first draft that isn't even complete yet and I can go back and reassess this situation later. I'm going to stick to the NaNoWriMo mindset of not doubling back to edit until the draft is complete. I'm going to keep pushing myself to write whether I want to or not until WALLS is finished and Kovax and Mildred's story is given an ending (hopefully the one they deserve).  Also sticking to NaNoWriMo daily word-goals, I am aiming to have either 90K or a complete first draft (hopefully the latter) by Christmas.

Right now, Kovax is walking Mildred home after a rather hectic and emotional evening.

Must. Keep. Writing.

Also, I wish the weather in Victoria would be a little more consistent, just this once! We're supposed to be three days into an Australian summer. It's been nice and hot the past two days, but tomorrow and the next day will be freezing in comparison.

How did November end for everybody else? Are you emotionally invested in your characters? Do you get bored during the low-intensity periods of your writing? How is winter going for everyone north of the equator? 

- Bonnee.


  1. Sounds like a chat about your novel could be productive. Stand by.

    1. If this were Facebook, I would 'Like' this comment.

  2. "I'm actually a horrible person who secretly enjoys hurting both my characters and myself and just generally fucking with everybody's heads." -- In other words, you're a writer.

    Excellent work and an excellent plan, stick with it. Regarding those two questions. Trust your gut. If you are really concerned that it's boring, then there's a good chance that it is. Mark it and move on, or take another look at it now, whichever you prefer. The second question is harder to answer, especially since we can't read either the 'boring' chapter or the next one. I don't know that there's a problem with switching gears, so long as everything makes sense. You're not going to go from Mildred and Kovax cuddled in front of a fireplace at the end of one chapter to dangling from a cliff edge at the start of the next.

    "Freezing", huh? Woke up to -4 F a couple of days ago. Be well!

    1. I'm okay with being a writer, even if it does make me a great big meanie.

      It's definitely something I'll be taking a look at when I redraft later and asking people to consider if I get anyone else to read it.

      Only freezing in comparison... we will have gone from two days at 30-35 C down to the following two days being between 15-20 C. Though admittedly, I've never experienced temperatures as cold as what you're talking about, and I don't think I'd like to!

      Thanks for your constant encouragement and support, Jeff :)

    2. Hmm, is that conversion factor 5/9 - 45, or 9/5 + 45? Argh. Yeah, it's all relative, if it hit 45 (F) tomorrow, we'd all be in shorts and t-shirts and having a BBQ on the beach, if it hits 54 in July we're huddled in our parkas. A fifteen degree drop in temp is a big difference, though.

      And I heartily recommend getting someone else to read it when you're done. Super-scary stuff, but pretty important.

    3. I was nearly getting sunburned on Monday and Tuesday, and now I can't go outside without adopting the appearance of a drowned rat because it won't stop raining. Haha but it's pretty humid, so it doesn't feel as cold as it really is.

      I'll definitely be getting someone (or a few someones) to read over things for me once a draft and some initial editing has been done. I have enough writer friends to know that I am only as scared of them as they are of me. :D

  3. What genre are you writing in? The "Narrative Intensity" varies genre to genre. In thrillers, it rarely lets up, although because the characters often lack depth there isn't a massive amount of emotional stimulation. Fantasy and science fiction stories have a tendency to be on the verge of boring in patches prior to the midway point, then explode into tension and emotion and all things beautiful in the last few hundred pages. I'm supposing you're writing YA, in which case you can have the occasional slow chapter. If important things are happening, people will read it, although you may want to clean it up in editing. Have you heard of "scene-sequel" formatting? I'm not a huge fan of the approach, but it may help you here.

    I can't disclose how winter is going as it would make it even easier to deduce my location. :p

    I have a tendency to use the almighty scene break for the boring bits. For a slowing of pace I use introspection, setting description, or dialogue. Since I write very short stories, I can get away with 95% intensity.

    Sometimes I get into the emotions. It's tough with flash, and even in short stories, but I strive to make my stories character-driven-enough to make me (and my readers) feel what my characters are feeling.

    1. Oh of course the narrative intensity depends on genre, but for me specifically, yes I'm writing YA and I figured I could probably get away with some low-intensity stuff. At any rate, it's something I'll keep in mind to take into consideration when I'm redrafting. I have not heard of "scene-sequel" formatting, so I'll look into that, thanks :)

      I guess writing flash fiction and even short stories would be very different from writing full length novels, especially in terms of intensity levels and whatnot. Do you find it hard to maintain an engaging high-intensity level for a whole piece?

    2. The most important thing I've learned about writing flash fiction is that you have to get the reader on board with the protagonist for it to work. If you get the reader in the protagonist's head, any emotion if made strong enough will translate into intensity for the reader.

  4. Congrats for finishing 60K words during NaNoWriMo. You still plan to write more, till about 90K words as your said, so first finishing writing till the end and only then start worrying about the novel. There will be many revisions, so no need to worry now. Every novel have low intensity pages, or even chapters, allowing the reader to relax. If you are worried that the low intensity chapters are boring, then during the revisions cut the pages in these chapters. But what might be boring to you, might not be boring to readers. If you can keep readers connected emotionally with Mil and Kovax during the first chapters, then they will continue reading during the low intensity moments waiting to see what will happen next. I wouldn't worry about hurting your main characters, as long as you lead them to happy ending. Actually hurting your main characters is good, because it make readers feel for them. I think that 90K words are too many words for most YA novels, so once you finish writing you will have many words to cut and you can cut them from the pages that you find somehow boring. WALLS will become a great novel only during the revision. I never participated in NANo. Do they register at the end all of those who finished the 50K words? We had a few days now below zero, but the cold days are still ahead. Best wishes in finishing and revising WALLS. Not many people below twenty-years-old achieved what you are doing, so pat yourself on the back for job well done.

    1. I'm not even worried about how long it ends up being in the first draft right now, because I know I will edit the crap out of it and bring the word count down... I've never been particularly scared of doing so. I brought EVERGREEN down from 80k to 65k, and the submission guidelines for the competition I tried to submit KATHERINE to said between 10k-20k, so I had to edit that down from 25k. I'm going to say the novel will be finished before I get to 90K, so hopefully I won't have quite that much to cut down in words, but even if I do, it's still manageable. the low-intensity scenes will of course be the first places I take words away from. Thanks for visiting, as always, Giora :)

  5. You know, I think it's a really good thing to be so emotionally invested in our characters. If we're not, how can we expect anyone else to be, right?

    Good luck finishing up the draft! :)

    1. You're right about that, I'm sure.
      Thanks as always for your support, Shari :)


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