Good morning, everybody! It’s the last weekend before Nanowrimo, so here’s a spotlight interview with Guilie from Quiet Laughter.
What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
Define “unusual”. Unusual to whom? To me it all looks perfectly normal, but then again, I’ve been known to consider wine before noon normal, or wasting a perfectly good Saturday traipsing along backroads chasing a stray and mangy dog to bring him to the vet. So maybe my “normal” isn’t quite up to par. I’m a pantster, meaning “plot” or even “plan” are words that confuse me. How can anyone plan anything to do with fiction? Characters have lives of their own, and as wonderful an idea as I may have for a story, the characters rule. (Yes, my fiction is character-heavy.) So I sit in front of the blank page, and imagine the character. Who is he/she? What do they want at that moment? What are they feeling? What makes them who they are? What are they doing? Who do they see, talk to? Why? And so a story is born.
HUGE drawback of being a pantster? The editing. I finished my first novel in August 2011, and have been editing it non-stop since then. Ran it through a couple of beta readers, then past my ever-trusty critique group (the Internet Writing Workshop,), hired a professional editor, next week will be her second pass after a six-month round of revisions. I do empathize with Picasso, going back to the museums to “fix” his paintings. It’s never finished, not ever. All I can hope for is to tell the story as well as I’m able before sending it out into the world. And yeah, I’m going the traditional agent-publisher route. Subject for another discussion, perhaps.
Where are your backup files?
Uh, backup? No, just kidding. I’ve never lost a WIP to the vagaries of cyberspace or cybertech, but I’ve heard enough stories to scare me into multiple backups. SERIOUSLY. DO IT. My Writing folder (which contains novels, short stories, notes on future opus magna, etc.) is not saved on my computer at all but on Dropbox. Additionally, I save a copy of it (yep, the whole folder) once or twice a week to an external drive. AND I have multiple copies on CD, too.
On a NaNo group in Facebook, there was recently a discussion about Scrivener and other writing software. Yes, I use Scrivener, will never go back to Word (not for the actual writing, although I do use it for final formatting), you cannot convince me there’s anything better than Scrivener, so don’t even try. And yeah, this is related to backing up. See, Scrivener allows you to take “snapshots” of your work. Say you finish a chapter, or scene, whatever. You take a snapshot, record it for posterity. Then you come back to edit (not during NaNo, eh?), and you go, “what the *#$% was I thinking?” and you start deleting like there’s no tomorrow: snipping whole sections out, copy-pasting paragraphs from the end to the beginning and vice versa, changing dialogue around, changing tags to action beats or beats to tags, whatever. And after an hour of merry snipping you realize you’ve totally–absolutely, beyond belief–ruined the chapter / scene. Ooops. Ha! But Scrivener, see, has saved that previous version in that snapshot you took. It’s right there for you to read, side-by-side with the new disaster. You can copy-paste from the previous version, or you can just hit “restore” and the disaster disappears. Oh, wait, you’re not sure the disaster is such a disaster after all? No worries–take a snapshot of it, and it’s saved. You need never again lose any bit of your writing.
I love Scrivener. I do, I do. And no, I don’t get any sort of commission from them. If anything, I should be paying *them*.
What advice would you give to all your fellow Wrimos?
Last year was my first NaNo, and even though I won (50,582, thank you very much), I don’t think I’m the best go-to person for NaNo how-to. But I’m happy to share what I learned from last year. Two things, basically. First: shut up that Internal Editor (IE). Shut him/her up (we can discuss IE’s gender later). NaNo isn’t about producing the new American (or Mexican, or Irish, or French, or Namibian, or Maltese) novel in 30 days, so forget about going back to review, revise, edit. NO. Rule #1: Do. Not. Edit. Ever. You have your protag wearing a sweater in the first scene, but then you change your mind (if you’re an organic writer like me this happens a lot) and decide the setting isn’t Oslo but a Caribbean beach? No problem. Make a note of it (right there in the text), highlight it if you need to, or write it in red letters, whatever. And MOVE ON. All those fixes, little or otherwise–is this the best verb, the strongest word, does the dialogue sound natural, etc.–are for December. Your main goal–nay, your only goal–during November is to write 50K words. Of crap or not, no one’s judging. Just. Write.
And that brings me to Rule #2: Neverevereverever delete anything. Nope, not even that stupid line where your protag decides to go skinny dipping in the middle of a country club dinner in his honor. If you reach a dead end–say the country club lake had a rogue alligator that ate your protag–just leave a double space and take up the story before he starts taking his clothes off. But DO NOT DELETE THE SKINNY DIPPING SCENE. See, every word counts. And not just that–you never know if this skinny-dipping episode might later come in handy, or even become a totally different spin on your story. Leave it. That Delete key is your mortal enemy this November. Forget it exists. Paint it red if you must, or glue a thumbtack to it–just don’t touch it.
Sneaky Ninja Question! What one thing are you most thankful for?
Gee-whiz, like in general? Re writing? Now, or for the whole of my life? I’m 39, after all–plenty to be thankful for, and I’m one of those silver lining kind of people that see good disguised in everything. My dad died when I was 19 and left me, a spoiled only child, penniless (boo-hoo, I know), but if that hadn’t happened–and as much as I miss him, even 20 years later–I’d probably have stayed spoiled. I’d never be the person I am today. I had a sort-of abusive relationship for 7 years (sort-of because I’ve heard some pretty bad stories, and this one didn’t come close), but without that experience I’d never have been able to appreciate all the goodness in the man that loves me today. Like I said, plenty to be thankful for. I’m alive, I’m healthy, I get to do what I love every day, all day (write and rescue stray dogs), I live in the Caribbean, I have a full cup of tea and a half-full pack of cigarettes, I have an absolutely wonderful man who loves me to bits, who is my best friend and my lover all rolled into one, I have a life chock-full of material for fiction, I have an overactive imagination… I have everything. I’m thankful for everything.
I would love for that to be true of myself; the reality is I seek constantly. I seek a better word (le mot juste), a more comfortable chair, a stronger drink, a quieter place, a spot with less shade for my flowers. I seek without true aim, in truth; therefore, whatever I find is a gift welcomed. Everything is worth immense gratitude.