Monday, November 14, 2011

I Hate You! Don't Leave Me!

Writerly Angsty Post

I hate my NaNoWriMo book. I hate my main character. I thought we had something good going, but it seems that the fantasy of it was way far from the reality. This book snores, it leaves its socks on the floor, it leaves the toilet seat up and will not take out the trash. As a crush, this book is awesome. As a boyfriend, it sucks.

You might wonder about this relationship metaphor. To me, writing is like that. You see this shiny new idea across a crowded room, it winks at you and you're hooked. You flirt, you get its number and go on that first date. It's wonderful, you hit it off and then the honeymoon begins. You sit down and start writing. Page one, page ten, the words are flying from your mind through your fingers and you think that this is the ONE! All other books and attempts at writing pale in comparison to this new genius. You become absorbed in it. You wake up thinking about your character. You dream about him.

Chapters pass. You might be into this for more than a casual fling. There are serious emotions involved. You have a song. A favorite restaurant. You're getting to know this character's ins and outs. Good points and bad ones. But the bad ones just make him/her charming.

Until the bad ones start overshadowing the good ones. And you start to wonder if this one will be like all the others. Floundering around in the middle of the damn book, you hate it when your character doesn't show up. You want to scream at him/her, you want to tell this character to get with it. But you don't. Because you don't want to force this character into doing something that would be uncharacteristic.

Because then your story will derail. Your character will leave you. Like a bad boyfriend, it will walk out and not even leave you a note. Maybe you'll get a text when you're sitting in your bathrobe listening to "your song" on repeat and working your way through a pint of Ben and Jerrys with take-out chopsticks from the restaurant you and your character loved.

My book and I are in this middle phase. I am wondering why in the hell I thought this was such a good idea. How could I have been so misled? Because the shiny new idea and the finished novel are miles apart. I cringe when I think of opening the file. My lagging word count taunts me. But when I get going, and muscle through the bad bits, it's actually enjoyable. It's tough. God, I just want to ditch the thing and consume a tube of cookie dough.

Perhaps I am being dramatic, but for some reason, this book I am writing feels like a battle. Not just a NaNoWriMo project. The chance to find out if I really need to be doing this writing thing. Should I keep going or consign myself to the nunnery of writing. A celibacy of words.

Maybe there's too much pressure. Perhaps I should stop looking at the long haul and enjoy the ride. Find out what about this character and this book idea attracted me in the first place. If we get to 50K, great! If not, that's ok, too.

If not, maybe we can just be friends.

Friday, November 4, 2011

So, Now What?

Have you ever been in love? Not with a person, per se, but a character? Or the idea of a character? In the realm of characters, I have loved deeply and often. But there is one about which I have become obsessed. This obsession has lasted a long time, since high school. We're talking Restraining Order obsessed, sitting in front of the house at 3 am playing "our song" over and over on my Walkman (pre-iPod, kids) and sobbing into the steering wheel.

OK, so this particular character doesn't have a house, nor do we have a song, but you get the gist. Who is it?

Roland, of Charlemagne and the Battle of Roncevaux fame.
I'm not sure exactly what sparked my obsession. I think it was Stephen King's Dark Tower books that first nudged me towards the real dude. King's Roland is based on Charlemagne's nephew and there is a mention of him as well in King Lear. This led me to The Song of Roland, an epic poem about him and that ill-fated battle.

History left a big hole where Roland is concerned. A hole filled by Literature, medieval and even modern. His story has fascinated wordslingers for centuries.

What is it about him that tugs at my writerly heartstrings? Perhaps it is his untimely death. Betrayal. Humble beginnings and eventual success. Though I have found none of these things historically. It is through the myths and stories told about him that one gleans his character, or the hint of the man he might have been.

I have wanted to write Roland's story for years. It is a daunting task, to fill so large a hole. But I finally decided now was the time, and NaNo, the perfect vehicle. This is the ultimate test of my chops as a writer and this cannot be undertaken with a faint heart. My inner critic needs to be tossed in a dungeon and locked away for me to even think of writing this book.

It scares the ever-loving hell out of me. Like finally getting to go on a date with the guy I've been stalking for decades. I don't imagine by the end of November I will have a perfect book, nor even a finished one. But like Roland and his famous uncle, I am determined to win the prize of 50,000 words of usable novel though I be bloodied and broken by the end of it.