Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That Which We Call a WiP by Any Other Word, Still Smells as Sweet...

Morning, y'all! I had an amazingly productive unplugged week, but it's great to be back. I've got my yet-again-untitled-work-in-progress completely plotted and I think I've only got another 5-7k words left to go, so the timing is perfect to finish before NaNo.

Sadly, as you may have surmised, I'm back to hating my title. Frustrating to be so close to the end, yet still not see my finished work as a whole. It's like finishing a jigsaw puzzle only to discover that the picture you've completed has vanished from sight.

I'm holding out the hope that as I think more critically about my revisions, a title will make itself apparent. Not something I really want hanging over my head during NaNo, though, so I've been looking for inspiration in old French ballads and poems. I heard that Margaret Mitchell got the title for Gone With the Wind from a poem, so I thought I'd try that route. Of course, the translations lose something of the passion of the originals, so it hasn't been very forthcoming.

Hans and Greta have been in my thoughts this past week, as well. I even talked about it with my husband, who asked me why I decided to go with the traditional Wilhelm Grimm story when I could take it in any direction: A modernization in Eastern Europe where the step-mother sells them into the sex trade, or some rural American setting where the witch is really a cannibalistic serial killer. (Seriously, these were his ideas, not mine)

The easy answer was that the time frame-- one month-- would be too short to research like I'd want to (the rituals of serial killers and cannibals, or the truth about the sex trade). Hence, the appeal of a Grimm's fairy tale. I've read every version of Wilhelm Grimm's rendition, which is enough research for me to plow through a first draft in 30 days. I'm writing it as if the Grimms heard the story from an elderly Hans and Greta. And I was actually born in Hessen, the story's region of origin.

There are a lot of reasons-- including my love for the story-- that I chose to write an extended version of the Grimm fairy tale, but I realized that the long answer is similar to what Davin Malasarn wrote in a recent Literary Lab post:

"I'm hoping, through this experiment on non-experimentation, to pick up some good story-telling habits. I'm also hoping to direct my creativity into other areas of the storytelling process. By fixing certain elements, like structure, my creative energy will flow into other avenues, like scene building and character traits, that will force me to think in a different way."

Like Davin, I'm hoping that this exercise will help me direct my creativity into characterization and motivation, instead of plot twists. That it will help me devote more time to craft and style and whatever I tend to sacrifice while I'm writing for the sake of the story. Hansel and Gretel is pretty much all about the characters anyway. Motivation is the key, as I've said before.

As we read the children's story, we don't question why the father decides to give up his children. We don't question Hansel's devotion to his sister, or the witch's desire for fresh meat. In an extended narrative, defining the motivations of the characters is necessary to make the reader believe the story is real.

So there's the long answer. I'm not using NaNo as an excuse to crank out another mediocre novel like all the others I've written. It's an exercise to improve my writing skills, to stretch the writing muscles I hardly use.

Why will you NaNo? For practice? To let a WiP sit for a while? Or just for fun?


Abby said...

I will NaNo so I can learn how to write without editing. Don't know if it will work, but it's worth a shot. :)

Um, what happened to the sparkles?

Shannon Messenger said...

Sadly I cannot NaNo this year (I must get my draft shiny and ready for the writer's conference I'm attending at the end of Jan) so I will have to live vicariously through all the participants. Please, share what you learn so I can sponge off of it. :)

Susan R. Mills said...

As you know, I'm not doing NaNo. But when I was planning on doing it, I wanted to use it as an exercise in not editing as I write!

Tere Kirkland said...

Abby, LOL, you were serious about that? Okay. You got it.
Sparkles in the bathtub, on greeting cards, and on holiday ornaments: yes.
Sparkles on clothing, query letters, and vampires: no. Got it? ;)

Shannon, good luck with your writing conference! I hope to share my experiences here, so keep checking in. I can't wait til January so I can vicariously live through your conference participation. I don't seem to have the time or, more to the point, $ to attend any conferences in my area.

Susan, that was my first reason to NaNo, because I edit as I go waaay too much. But I figured that I can pack more into this exercise than self-control and turning off my innre editor.

Time will tell!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I can't do NaNo. My internal editor won't shut up. :(

Abby said...

Dang, Tere. Now I have to throw away all my shirts. ;) Sparkles are the worst on clothes. My girls love them and when I wash their clothes it gets on everything. But then I guess we can all feel like vampires when we go out. ;) Ooo. Shiny.

Davin Malasarn said...

Well, I think you already know why I'm trying NaNo! And, in fact, you just reinspired me to do it after I was feeling like I'd rather sink back into my old habits! The comfort zone is so tempting!

Tere Kirkland said...

Yeah, Jennifer, that's what I thought, too, but I figured this way I'll have no choice but to duct tape the mouth of my inner editor! There will be no editing in November. In fact, November will be completely editing-free!

Abby, lol, emailed you. Trying hard to keep my sparkly vampire vehemence in check!

Davin, glad I could help at all. But you were the one who inspired me in the first place. Oh, that comfort zone, full of down pillows and hot chocolate... No! NaNo will condition me to become a better writer or my name isn't Tere "SUPER WRITER" Kirkland. ;)

Karen Denise said...

I will NaNo this year because I've never done it before and because I have a WIP that can be finished with a solid 30 days of writing.

Krispy said...

I'm also an edit-as-I-go person, so I'm NaNo-ing in order to just get the words out and turn off that Inner Editor. I did it seriously last year, and it was a really good, learning experience. So here I am again.

Your NaNo sounds cool. I love fairy tale retellings! Good luck!

Tere Kirkland said...

Karen, did you sign up yet? I'm terefaerie, I think. I haven't been back since I signed back up again this year. Something about the forum over there scares me though, it's just so overwhelming.
Hope you enjoy it, and good luck finishing your wip.

Krispy, my inner editor was what kept me from finishing 40K words last year. The difference is that this NaNo project is going to be just for fun, while last year's project turned into the novel I'm currently querying. So I think this year I can do it, and I'm excited about it, too. Thanks for the luck!

Karen Denise said...

Hey, I just added you as a buddy. I'm listed as rosepddle, so anyone who wants to be my NaNo buddy can add me and I'll add them back! Good luck to everyone!