Sometimes, there are things you have to do that suck, and are boring. You don’t want to do these things, not one bit, and you will agree to do practically anything in order to avoid doing them. (Empty the litterbox? Sounds thrilling! Take out the trash? Here, I’ll wipe down the can, too, and while I’m at it, why don’t I just go pick up some more trash bags?) Sometimes, you hit points like that in your novel. And the only way to get past it is to buckle down, motivate yourself, and push through it, right? Wrong.
Look, during NaNoWriMo, you have a very specific goal: write 50,000 words in a month. Going by that logic, who cares if you skip parts? But that’s not even the logic I’m going by. I’m not just saying that skipping the parts you don’t want to write will allow you to achieve a higher wordcount — I’m saying it will also make you a better writer.
I know it’s unusual that being lazy will actually help you improve, so hear me out before you knock it.
why are you bored with your own story?
So you can’t wait to write the scene where your main character confronts her childhood enemy in a major showdown with laser weapons, but first, you have to write the part where she eats dinner with her roommate and they talk about traffic.
Oh wait, no you don’t. Why on earth do you need that scene? If it is standing between you and an exciting, compelling chapter, why are you bothering to even include it? Think about it this way: if you’re bored with that scene, what the hell makes you think your reader will like it?
If there’s necessary information in that scene, you have two options:
- Find another place to stick in that information. There’s nothing wrong with a quick expositional sentence: “Anna drove to the major showdown laser location, still fuming from the heated debate she’d had with her roommate over dinner about traffic.” Bam, information conveyed. It’s also fairly easy to embed almost any information into almost any scene of dialogue, which is a good, quick way to cram exposition into just a few lines.
- Make a note to self and move on. If you really can’t figure out a place to put the important information, or if you realize that you should’ve embedded it pages and pages ago, my preferred method is to make a quick note to self (“Shit, Anna was supposed to talk traffic w/ roommate? Add later”), highlight it in yellow or lime green so it’ll stick out to me once I hit the editing process, and just move on as if the information has already been conveyed.Don’t try to write around mistakes. You can fix those mistakes later. Write as if you never made them, so that all you have to edit is the part you missed, rather than the part you missed … and also everything that was dependent on it.
I realized the other day that most of my first 25k words are useless setup. I have finally hit the interesting stuff, and I’m recognizing that I could’ve gotten there in less than 5k. This is very frustrating, of course, and I’m wishing now that I had followed my own advice and paid attention to what I, as the writer, am interested in.
But if you’ve written useless stuff, which I’m sure all of us have to varying degrees, don’t beat yourself up. You’re still closer to having a novel than you were 18 days ago. And even if you scrap everything you’ve written so far once you reach your final edit, you’ve learned about your characters and your story, and you now know of just over 25k words that you don’t want — and that’s better than nothing!
Have you written anything that you already know you’re going to scrap? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to add me as a writing buddy.