Going Down in Flames


Better than half-way through November, and I am now trailing in NaNoWriMo by oh, a little over 11,000 words. I think it’s a pretty safe bet I’m not going to hit 50K by the 30th, but I’m ok with that.

I started out with the usual enthusiasm, thinking I’d be able to steal some time at work to write, and that worked out pretty well for the first couple of days, but then it quickly became impossible to maintain. This is no great tragedy, apart from not accomplishing much writing. Since I never intended this project to become a novel, just filling in the background blanks on another character that I want to introduce into the vampire novel (which I’m still referring to as ‘Revenants Abroad’ for lack of a more inspired title). I figure it’s not lost time or effort, however much I get done.

And then a funny thing happened.

I decided I really like this character, and she’s ending up in some pretty interesting situations and developing quite a history. I’m taking her in directions I haven’t gone before, some of which are frankly a challenge for me. But that’s good. I decided weeks ago that no one was ever going to see any of it, basically freeing myself to write anything I wanted without the fear of being judged or people looking at me askance and wondering what was wrong with me. Even still, I’m having a hard time with some of it.

Somewhere along the way I started thinking in terms of maybe using some of this in the novel, or even a separate novel about this character, and maybe that’s what put the brakes on my free-wheeling attitude. When I write with the idea of someone other than me reading it I self-censor far too much. I don’t know how to get past that. It’s not even anything particularly edgy or weird, but it’s new territory for me. I think what I most fear is that I’m not doing it well, that it’s all cliched and trite and not evoking what it’s supposed to. I don’t know.

I guess I’ll keep going and see what happens, even if I crash and burn.

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9 thoughts on “Going Down in Flames

  1. Oh, I love that you’re doing this. NaNo’s great and all, but going buckwild because the character showed up and demanded that attention must be paid – geez, that’s what art’s about, not counting words. As for how to get the past the self-censoring, hmm, that’s another story. All I can think of is what you told me once – a terrific quote, that I can’t remember verbatim, but the gist of it was “write for your best audience – write for yourself.”

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  2. To wrap it up, you’re not going down in flames – that sassy character you’ve created is rising from the ashes! 🙂

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  3. Yeah these characters are taking over my life. If anymore show I’m going to have to buy a hotel to house them all.

    I think that was Harlan Ellison you’re thinking of – “Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself.”

    Well, what else can you do, really?

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    1. The hotel is your flash drive. Give them a home, and worry about showing it to people later.

      I will say, FWIW, that every semester, a little past the halfway point, I have students come up to me, shyly, hesitantly, asking if I’ll read something they’ve written b/c they’re not sure if it makes sense. Just abut every time I get that request, it turns out to be the best work they’ve done all year, and they are not sure if it makes sense b/c they’ve never challenged themselves in this fashion before. Now these are teenagers, writing exposition assignments, but I wonder if you’re nervous about showing this stuff to people for the same reason – it’s potentially a breakthrough, and you are not yet used to thinking about yourself as that kind of writer. Just sayin’ ..

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  4. Re: Flashdrive – Heh, could be. Maybe that’s why so many of them live in hotels and apartments rather than McMansions in the suburbs? 😉

    Well, I have to say this character I’m working on now is turning out different from the way I’d planned to write her. Now obviously that could all change when I go back in and revise (if I do, I’m still not decided if any of this will merit more attention or simply stand as-is if I need it for establishing her character in RA). I seem to be writing a vastly more introspective character than I had planned. I am unintentionally making her more into a vampire equivalent of Jake Marlowe in “The Last Werewolf”, and believe you me, it is unintentional. I could never deliberately set out to write like Glen Duncan, he’s light-years beyond me. And I have to say I was DEEE-LIGHTED to see his book listed in the #10 slot on the NYTimes 100 Notable Books of 2011. I don’t think what I’m writing is any kind of breakthrough. Maybe I should send you the sections that make me squirm and see what you think… Nah, I’m not that mean 😉

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    1. Remember, I’m teaching the reluctant readers this semester; I love my students but I assure you, nothing YOU write could make me squirm. On your worst day at least you’re using the right prepositions! 😀

      I’m gonna have to add Glen Duncan to my Xmas list. Do you think his choice of the name Marlowe has anything to do with Marlowe the writer or Marlowe the private eye?

      I seem to remember, BTW, that awhile back you were bumming b/c whatever you were writing at the time didn’t seem to have enough depth – maybe this new character’s introspective qualities are addressing that, intenional or not.

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  5. Heh, I try to 🙂 I believe Marlowe’s name is a nod to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” I was trying to find an interview that mentioned it, but there were so many book reviews and interviews with Duncan over the summer when it hit US bookstores, it could take awhile to find it.

    Re: introspective qualities: could be. I just keep stopping myself as I go along thinking, “Wait, this is starting to sound like Jake” (clearly not as well-written, but along the same idea of analyzing everything in her life, and what her next moves should be, and dealing with the people she encounters along the way, trying to figure them out).

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  6. DD, if you ever saw my swamp drafts, you would never, ever, EVER again feel bad about your own drafts. Never.

    Keep going! I love when my characters start changing on me. It’s frustrating and makes the process more difficult when they start acting like rebellious teenagers, but it’s also when the magic starts happening. 🙂

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  7. Haha, thanks Tasha.

    I’m liking some of what’s happening, some is inevitable due to the circumstances she’s thrown into, but it’s a far cry from what I envisioned when I first started writing this. Par for the course, I suppose.

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