The Look in Their Eyes: A NaNoWriMo Profile

As part of my NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, I offered all of the folks who signed up a chance to write a guest post for How Not To Write. I think you’ll be amazed as I was at the variety of people who have submitted posts. I know I am. I’m also proud to share their words here and I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment. — Jamie


Today’s post comes from Ali Hawke.

Ali is writing her fifth NaNoWriMo novel and all five are wildly different. She does this every year, having dragged her husband and a co-worker into the madness with her, and even when it all stinks, it’s still a fantastic ride!

Drop by her website for a visit:

The Look in Their Eyes

You say it to someone who doesn’t write, and they look at you like you’re doubly crazy. First there’s the “You want to write HOW MANY words in HOW LONG?” look, which is equivalent to how you’d look at a ferret that just surfaced in your morning coffee complete with scuba mask and oxygen tanks. You can get them over that one by blaming someone else for talking you into it, which makes you not insane, merely a supportive friend, albeit in a bizarre fashion.

Then there’s the revelation that your characters, whom you created, are misbehaving, and that’s a 9.8 on the weird-o-meter in almost every non-writer’s book. They’re sulking in a corner, they got blink drunk last night, they ran off to Reykjavik with the neighbours cousin’s ex-girlfriend, they stubbornly refused to fall in love with the right person, and inexplicably turned up in scenes they have no right to be in, doing stuff you didn’t plan on them doing at all, let alone right now. Yep, THAT look. You know what I’m talking about. They probably took an involuntary step back when you said it.

But it happens. Sooner or later, no matter how well planned your outline is (and I’m a rabid outliner), you find yourself writing something you didn’t expect. You have two choices now: Wrestle the characters back into place, or go with it. I say go with it! The story takes off in a different direction and you’re along for the ride, watching the characters tear up their lines and say something else. Maybe they’ll get back on track later, maybe you’re not writing the story you started out with, and that’s OK. Maybe they have another story to tell, maybe your original idea was sound and they’ll see that further down the line and come back to it with extra plot twists of their own. Stalk the wily characters in the wild and eavesdrop shamelessly. Some of them are brilliant. And you can’t stop thinking about them.

Grind through the first chunk of the story and you’ll get to the part where it comes alive. If you’re insanely lucky, it’ll take off immediately. Most of us have to put in some sweat first where you’ve written every cliché in the book up to and including “No, I am your father Luke!” (Darth Vader gets around and wears many disguises. If you haven’t seen him in your novel yet, trust me, he’s coming your way). At this point, the whole thing seems like a bad idea and a waste of your time. You could hurl it into a flaming pit of molten lava and decide that it would be easier to be a rocket scientist instead. Maybe you already are a rocket scientist. But there’s still that story in you like a hook in your mind, tugging at you. And once you get one story out, there’s another one bubbling up right behind it, two more after that.

The absolute best part about writing for me is the part just after you’ve finished the story. Finishing is a special magic. You have a stack of pages all toasty from the printer and smelling of interesting carcinogens. They don’t sparkle or dance, they just sit there, but they’re pages you brought into being that didn’t exist last month. You have all the time in the world to embed diamonds in the dialog and polish up the prose and red pen it into magnificence. Right after that next scene…

Interested in sharing your story? I’ve opened up the writer profiles section to submissions from any/all writers. Read on for “guidelines”.

5 thoughts on “The Look in Their Eyes: A NaNoWriMo Profile

  1. Heee I love the image of the ferret! My sister gave me that exact look when I explained to her what I was doing. I said “It’s called NaNoWriMo,” and she said, “You have to write 50,000 words THAT RHYME?!” It took some explaining.

    Katherine Skipper´s last blog post..OCD Happy

  2. Great post, and very accurate descriptions of characters running amok. I’m almost at 40K, and a brand new character just showed up, and I’ve realized that he needs to be written into the story from the beginning. That’s the fun for me, though – and one reason I never outline. I just love to see who pops up and what kind of trouble they get into.

    Uppington´s last blog post..Weekend Challenge

  3. Nice post for this afternoon’s read as I sit here and try to figure out who is going to do what to whom next in a state of mass confusion. One of my thoughts was that none of the characters would do anything to each other at this point, and that would be the end of it. That’s probably not going to be the way it works out.

    Maybe someone needs to take off to Iceland. Or I need a ferret. Where is the Force when I need it?

    Tom´s last blog post..Hitting the Wall at Two Thousand Words per Hour

  4. I agree with your advice to stalk those characters. It seems they somehow know what they’re doing and the plot ends up on track after all. That is one of the fun things about following along to where they all go.

    Amber´s last blog post..Where Has the Time Gone?

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