Right now, I am at my desk, Abbie and Ichabod back on my desktop, because it is almost Halloween. I have an Irish fisherman sweater style blanket in my lap, and am drinking tea out of my new Her Ladyship mug (birthday present from Housemate) and listening to my newest earworm, “This Is How You Walk On,” by Gary Lightbody and Johnny McDaid, on repeat. Here, listen:
When I get earworms like this, it’s usually best to get out of their way (aka play them on repeat for an insanely long period of time) and let them burrow all the way through, because there is something in them, that will be going into a story, somewhere. I’ve had story on the brain lately. Not an entirely unusual thing for a writer, especially of fiction, and, with November a mere couple of days away, it is time for the annual NaNoWriMo waffle around here.
Not that there are actual waffles involved, though I would not turn down any waffles that might come my way, in November or any other month. To NaNo, or not to NaNo is the big question, and, by this time, I should have it settled, but I don’t. I love the idea of community, and I love the encouragement, but the word count, which is kind of an important part of the whole endeavor, yeah, not so much. I focus on that, and numbers become the goal instead of story. Still, November this year coincides with my goal of increasing production. Think, think, think. Thinkety-think–think.
Since I normally tend toward overthinking, I am taking a different path. This morning, I updated some trackers in my notebook, and noticed that, once again, I have wandered away from my revised writing tracker. This probably means that I have ruled out another way to track progress. One thing I’ve learned from tracking various habits is that what works best for me is to do what feels natural, and then figure out how I did it afterwards. I don’t know if there is a national month for that. Creative Exploration Month? Is that a thing? Even if it isn’t, the time feels right.
When trying to figure out how/what to track, the question I ask myself first is, “what motivates me?” For writing, the answer is easy: story. Characters. People. When I first slipped a blank sheet of paper into my electronic typewriter (yep, it was that long ago,) in a Vermont dorm room, on an autumn afternoon, I didn’t think about word count. I didn’t think about marketing. I didn’t think about trackers or comparing myself to anybody else. I had too much story on the brain. My only focus was to move my hero and heroine along the timeline of the story. I don’t remember how much I wrote that first day. I do remember taping (this was before I discovered Post-its) a piece of memo paper to the shelf above my desk, with the next milestone I wanted to hit in the next session. All I had to do was write toward that, and everything would be fine.
It’s been a while since then, but this may be one of those times when going with the first, instinctive reaction may be the best. I’m not sorry I paused Her Last First Kiss‘s second draft, to rework some of the events, but November feels right to put away the map and get moving again. Still a little scary, but I think a healthy dose of scariness is a good thing when it comes to writing. It means the writer is trying something new. Stretching. Growing. Adding more tools to the toolbox. If what comes out of it is that I find another method that doesn’t work, well, that’s valuable too.
What I know is this: I have stories. They need to be told. I am the only one who can tell them. Right now, Melva and I have one finished manuscript, our first together, making the rounds, and another in its earliest days of a first draft. I have a second draft of another more than halfway done, with its second half re-plotted to better serve characters and story.
That’s where my attention has to go; the characters and their story. When I can focus on that, slip into their world, and walk around in their skins, writing doesn’t feel like work at all. There’s a time for planning the trip, and a time for hitting the proverbial road. Maybe I’ll NaNo, and maybe I won’t, but, either way, November is going to be time for getting together with my imaginary friends, and getting their stories told.