The characters with no names

The point I mentioned last night about my novel still rings true almost 17,000 words in, so now I get to bring it up.

None of my characters have proper names.

My story is told in first person, so that eliminated the need to figure out the main character’s name for awhile. He’s a pretty solitary ghost on the whole, and I don’t think any of the characters know his name. Come to think of it, I don’t think any of the characters know each other’s names. Actually, that’s a lie. There were two girls at a show the ghost narrator sneaked into in the beginning who probably knew each other’s names, though the names were unmentioned. And of course, the ghost’s love interest and the love interest’s apparent human interest probably know each other’s names, but those names haven’t come up in the story yet. The former’s name will likely come up eventually, assuming I ever get around to naming any of these characters. As for the other characters, who knows? My cast of characters is small so far, and I could probably count all the characters on two hands. Distinguishing the characters by calling them “the ghost” (another ghost who is not the narrator) or “the girl” or “the guy” hasn’t gotten me into trouble yet. This method will get me into trouble eventually, so maybe I should start introducing names into the story.

Is the lack of proper names in the story a bad thing? One could argue that “the girl” or “the guy” or “the ghost” are names. Names are what we make of them, and they can be whatever we please. On the other hand, proper names are easier to deal with and are much less awkward when you’re reading an entire book. Are there any books that brave the world of improper names for a whole book? I’m curious now. Enlighten me.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day Two

As promised, I’m a quarter of the way through Camp NaNoWriMo. The story’s starting to develop, and I’m figuring out where to go next with it. The ghost’s love interest is not just a human, but a ghostbuster. Hello conflict. The conflict in this story is going to be huge, and I’m enjoying the story so far. Figuring out the next step hasn’t been too difficult after the first few scenes.

For those who struggle with this, my words of advice: think of the thing you would expect your characters to do, and then do the opposite. I found myself doing this several times throughout the plot. My ghost character could have floated away from the guy selling the roses like his common sense said he should have, but instead he stole a few, and that’s how he was found a few scenes later.

The other interesting bit about this story may or may not still be relevant tomorrow, but I’ll take that chance. I also probably won’t finish this story in four days, despite my writing speed today. I have nonwriting things to be doing!

Guess who’s finally starting Camp NaNoWriMo?

I finally started Camp NaNoWriMo. Yes, on the nineteenth. I’m aware that this is a very late start, but after a friend pointed out that she had 3,000 words to go to the 50,000 word goal and no motivation and I pointed out that she didn’t want me to beat her to 50k, well, that got me thinking. What if I wrote 50,000 words faster than she wrote three thousand? I have a busy week this week, so writing the whole book in two days won’t happen. But she can set her motivation aside until I get to 40,000 words or so, after which the last 10k will take about four hours.

As for other motivation, apparently I have a mystery thing that I won’t get unless I reach 12,500 words by around 11:22pm tomorrow. Erm, tonight, I suppose. I’m at 1520 words right now, so that’s roughly 11,000 words to go. Doable, right? Even with a busy day tomorrow? It’ll involve a lot of Internet ignoring and squeezing work into every spare minute, but it can be done.

Let the noveling begin!

Exactly 1667 words a day? Not quite.

Remember that challenge to write exactly 1667 words a day for May? Now that it’s officially June, I can safely say that challenge didn’t work out quite as planned. Part of the reason behind this was because the nature of my story was writing short stories, and short stories and I don’t get along. Cramming an entire story in so few words is like mowing the lawn with scissors. It can be done, but I really don’t want to do it. Funnily enough, I could have written an entire traditional novel in the amount of time it took me to write these stories. Heck, I could have written two of them.

Then there’s the cowriter factor. The process of bouncing ideas off each other is a great reason for having a cowriter, and the nature of the story gives us good reason to write the two separate pieces of it separately. But despite falling further and further behind, I was still ahead of my cowriter for most of the month, and I could stay only so far ahead. While my pantsing nature works well for novels I’m writing on my own, it works less well when writing with someone else. Even if there’s no huge outline as in our case, staying on the same page (see what I did there?) is extremely important, and that’s what we aimed to do throughout the month even after both of us fell behind.

All this is to say that I didn’t write 50k in May and the story’s not finished. I still wrote almost 30,000 words, so May wasn’t a complete loss. The story will be finished, though. We’ve put too much into the thing to let it languish now.

New projects always solve writer’s block. Right?

What do I do when I can’t think of what to write in one story?

Plan a completely different project, clearly. It started a couple of days ago after stumbling across the website of a book I’ve been meaning to read and finding out that the submission period for the second volume was open. About half an hour later I had filled up two pieces of scratch paper with possible ideas. Some of them–heck, most of them–won’t be used, but that’s okay because The Idea came out of those scribblings, and it has gotten refined since then through long walks and more brainstorming. This means I should start writing the thing and finish reading the book to make sure my major theme hasn’t already been covered.

At least this one doesn’t have a maximum word count limit, though novellas are discouraged. This one doesn’t have enough oomph to be a novel, so I have that going for me. Maybe I can write short stories after all.

I’m definitely a novel girl

I’ve been doing well at writing exactly 1667 words per day this month, even if I have finished the quota at one in the morning every day so far before today. The main reason for that is because I’m writing a bunch of short stories this month, and I have lots of trouble with short stories. You see, my brain does not do short very well. I was the kid who wrote really long stories in school when it was time to write a story. When the assignment was for one page, I easily quintipled that before getting to the point, which was usually incorporating vocabulary words. One time I turned in a twenty-page story for a project that was still rushed at the end. The teacher imposed a maximum page limit the next time she gave the same assignment. I’m pretty sure no one approached that maximum, whatever it was.

So asking me to work on a maximum word count, especially what is now a very short one, is now proving to be as hard as I once thought writing an entire novel was. The funny part is that my maximum word count for a given story (1000 words) is probably about five handwritten sheets of notebook paper front and back. That’s about what I filled for a typical story in school, and most of the time I still wasn’t finished.

Yep, I’m definitely a novel girl.

On the bright side, I finished Script Frenzy.

I finished Script Frenzy yesterday, though I didn’t mention it thanks to the much more important Tornado Hell. The script still needs two or three more scenes before it’s finished, but they’re scenes that are mostly unchanged from the book. If inertia kicks in, I won’t feel too bad.

This is the first year I’ve finished Script Frenzy before the last day, which is a personal accomplishment. Last year I mostly stayed on track for the whole month, despite writing a musical, but I played the catchup game all the years before that. This year I bounced between falling behind and getting ahead, and the final push to the finish resulted in my cruising through the last fifteen pages.

The big lesson I’ve learned this year: No more adaptations. The idea was great in theory. I was going to use a screenplay to outline the next version of my novel, and I’d use the screenplay to fill in holes in the story. What I really wound up doing was writing some of the scenes that haven’t been written yet and then adapting what I had already written. Oops. While the script tells a story, there are huge holes from new scenes I wrote in the beginning and never developed later thanks to my development of old scenes.

Some good did come out of the adaptation. I got to see my book in a new light. Some scenes in books don’t adapt well to movies, like those with one person doing a lot of thinking. I had a lot of those scenes in the first draft, probably from writing so quickly and figuring out what should come next. Many of those scenes will be cut, but some are important, like a scene where a character is taking in a lot of information while alone. We’ll see what happens to it later, but it stands for now. My rule of thumb was “If it’s boring in the book, it’s definitely boring in the movie.” And if it’s boring in the movie, I can skip the effort and not include it.

What happens next? I’ve been challenged to write something in exactly 1667-word increments for May, meaning I should figure out an idea for that. There are a few ideas bouncing around my mind right now, but I want to save them for NaNoWriMo or the Three-Day Novel weekend. I have time to figure this out, right?

On the editing front, I know that major changes will be happening to both the pumpkin novel and the alternate worlds novel, so it’s probably time to sit down and think my way through the books before sitting down and writing yet another crappy draft. That’s right. I have to face The Outline. Everyone has to face it eventually. May it not consume my soul.

Words now banned from my vocabulary

While editing the book, I came across many words and phrases that could be cut without another thought. Many adverbs got cut mercilessly because a better verb would do or because the adverb wasn’t necessary in the first place. (See what I did there?) Then there are the fluffy words that rarely add anything to a sentence and that I found myself cutting without looking back.

Here’s the short list of words and phrases now banned: pretty much, somewhat, very, a little bit, well (as in “Well, I don’t know…”), really, extremely, nice, just.

The long list is a work in progress. The purpose isn’t to ban every nondescriptive word. This could have the opposite effect; those descriptive words could turn into the new “nice” when I have nothing else to say.

That’s not to say that cutting these words is fruitless. Recognizing and cutting those clutter words I use too often is a great place to start, but I have a long way to go in order to polish my prose. I know I’ll fall back into my old habits, especially when pounding out a first draft or in spoken vocabulary. I’ll look for these words more closely when I resume editing in May. As for my spoken vocabulary, it can take a beating some other time.

NaNoEdMo: Complete!

A couple of editathons this weekend put me over the NaNoEdMo goal for this month at almost exactly fifty hours. Hooray! NaNoEdMo is only the beginning for this novel since I’m about a third of the way through rewriting new scenes and fixing plot holes. Yes, there are that many plot holes, but that’s not the big problem. I’ve given my main character a completely different storyline. To be more accurate, I gave her a storyline since she didn’t have much of one to start with. Another major character is getting more screen time than she had previously, and I’m working on writing in her new scenes and weaving them into the story.

This will take time. Luckily the adaptation I’m doing for Script Frenzy will give me a chance to test drive any new ideas I have in the next week and give me more to work with when I start editing seriously again in May. The script will be the “good parts” version, and the goal for my novel will be to make the whole novel the Good Parts version. If it’s boring in script format, it’s definitely going to be boring in the book. This will be my April mantra.

Character heaven

I’ve been editing my novel today through my third twelve-hour editathon. (It’s going well, by the way. I’m about a third of the way through writing in new scenes and changing the order, but I still have a long way to go when it comes to plugging in plot holes.) One thing I’ve had a hard time doing is cutting characters. Sometimes cutting a character is easy, such as when a character shows up in one of two scenes and plays no role in the story. Other times it’s a lot harder, such as when a character shows up and could play a role if the story were written differently or when the character is interesting but doesn’t play a role in the story.

Unfortunately there’s no place in a book for a boring or roleless character, but what happens to these characters when they’re cut? They get buried in the character graveyard, and then they go to character heaven, of course. I was sad about cutting these characters at first, especially the ditzy alternate version of my main character, but finding out they would have plenty of company in character heaven brought a big smile to my face. They’d be happier there frolicking among the character clouds and doing whatever they like there.

So rest in peace, ditzy alternate Brooklyn, Earl, Fred, officer Brooke, and all the characters I’ve cut from the pumpkin novel in the past year. You have served your purpose in this book, getting me past writer’s block and pushing me to the end of my first draft, but now I see that you deserve something than to be in a place where your existence would be questioned. Be free. Be happy. Remember that one day your book, like many other things in life, will whisper to you, and you should seize that opportunity with both hands and run with it.