NaNoWriMo: The Dreaded Week 2
Even though this period of time has already come and gone, I’d like to talk about a very critical point in any NaNoWriMo challenge that Sharon apparently flew past: the Dreaded Week 2. Now, for those of you who have yet to take this challenge in any of its forms – in November for NaNoWriMo or June for the Southern Cross Novel Challenge or, frankly, whenever you want – the hurdles are always the same.
When I took up the challenge in June of 2008, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to tell the story of one of my favorite characters that I had ever come up, Excelsior. I made the necessary adjustments to his back story, I made the man who would become this great character a teenager rather than an adult – which was how he started back in 1992 – and I had a basic template of a story in mind. The beginning and the end were all set; it was just a matter of how I would get there.
The first week was a blast. I got to write all these really cool scenes that introduced the main character and some of the supporting characters, and I got to take the first steps that set the plot in motion. After a week, I had finished just about four chapters, I was on pace to make 50,000 words before the end of the month, everything was in great shape.
And then, as Week 2 started, I realized I had hit the wall. I had no more of the plot to unearth; now I had to make my characters DO something. Of course I shouldn’t have feared much since this is all about just writing the first draft, and first drafts are supposed to be crap. After all, writing is re-writing. But I still wanted this story’s big step forward to be a meaningful one. Hours passed and I kept asking myself, what happens next? My enthusiasm was replaced by anxiety and I began wondering if I had what it took to finish this monumental challenge.
Suddenly, the moment of inspiration struck! Kind of.
Instead of sticking with this very limited group (Matthew, his uncle and this older mentor-type of man – who would later become a woman when I realized I didn’t have any major female characters), I decided to go back to the other planet that I had written about in an earlier chapter and introduce some more characters. They had to be transported to Earth to assist the mentor with Matthew’s training, and once I made that decision, I felt the previously gummed-up gears in my head start to turn again. It felt great shaking off this problem and regaining the momentum that I was in danger of losing.
After that scene ended, I went back to my original characters and nothing felt forced anymore. From then on, much to my relief, I was having fun writing again. The second week came and went, and every single day, I was keeping up with my word count. This continued all the way through June of 2008, until I wrote “The End” on the manuscript at 11:35pm on June 30. My first draft was 58,000 words long.
Of course, this was only the first step in a very long journey with “Excelsior,” but it was a journey that now has a happy ending. I self-published this book in July of 2010, then pulled it off the market when it was accepted by Rocking Horse Publishing, a small press from St. Louis, MO. I took the opportunity to give it another edit (its fifth edit, if you count the rewrites from 2008-2010 and another edit in early 2012) and now I couldn’t be happier. But all of this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t get over the stopping point during Week 2 of the first draft.
So I’d like to hear from all of you. Are you ahead or behind on your word count? Is there something that’s in your way? How are you planning to get around it? Share your issues here. Maybe someone will have the answer you need…