NaNoWriMo Day 10: Unleashing The Writer Within


So I guess I’m writing these things every second day? Expect that to change once I achieve NANOWRIMO VICTORY.

I’ve been getting cranky about things in every blog post (more of that in a second) but I guess first I should talk more about la act de écriture de la noveul. I mentioned in a previous post that shooting for a high word-count every day has encouraged less on the fly editing and nit-picking. Now this might just result in a much harder job of rewriting and editing the story into something approaching halfway decent come December, but I also think it’s encouraged a greater appreciation of how to actually plot a story and fit things together, and how to keep a hypothetical reader engaged.

For example, early on I had a bit where the characters get caught up in a Thing and decide to do something that goes against the wishes of the immediate authority figures in their world; this sequence of events as played out in my head, and as I would likely have written it given infinite time, would have involved a long bit where the two protagonists creep around and get up to sneaky shenanigans before eventually getting caught just as they’re about to put their plan into motion. Then I realized the point at which they’re caught is what kicks off the main action of the story, so why not cut the bullshit and just get straight to it? Everything else I had planned was actually just filler. Now, in the version I actually have written, the characters get caught up in a Thing and then the police immediately kick the door down and drag everyone off to get shot or imprisoned, which in turn propels the plot forward at a pretty fast clip for over a third of the story. I’m sure I would have realized this was a better way to do things anyway, but probably only after writing tons of needless filler that I’d end up cutting.

On a related note: the idea that spending  a long time criticising or critiquing a certain medium makes you good at creating in that medium is obviously complete bullshit, but it is true that my in-depth Patrick Rothfuss scholarship has given me a keen appreciation of certain writing flaws. For example, heaving to wade through endless repetitious character actions has mad me vow to never, ever use certain words. I am proud to say you can search my entire manuscripte and its many pages of sterling prose and never encounter a single instance of the words “grin” or “sigh”. My exciting and compelling characters only roll their eyes or shake their heads when it is absolutely appropriate that they do so. Likewise, I have pledged to always be steadfast against the fantasy genre curse of Nothing Fucking Happening and so it is my goal that stuff should always be Fucking Happening, at all times.

Wait did I just talk about my actual story? Uhhhhh I mean Werewolf Steampunk Detectives* yeah there we go.

Back to our usual subject though: what the fuck is going on with the NaNo forums?

In some threads it’s like an RP forum crashed into a writing forum and spawned some sort of unholy chimera. You’ve got people having long conversations about how their muse is a half-dragon half-lion named Gustav or their characters are writing the plot themselves or…. well just look at this shit:

My inner self/alter ego is a mixed being known as the Inner Editor. He’s NOT just the Inner Editor though. He’s Muse, coach, motivator, plot-bunny wrangler and basically everything in between. When one of us is down and out, neither of us can work so unlike others I don’t shut him out during NaNo. If he tells me to go back and fix something: I do it.

He kind of looks like Lestat from The Vampire Chronicles. Six feet tall, athletic, long wavey blonde hair and blue-violet eyes. He likes to wear leather pants, leather knee high boots and frilly shirts that he leaves open to mid-chest-ish


[my muse] is a deadly mystery. She’s previously been called Morrigan but now I get glared at whenever I use that name. She wont tell me what her real one is.

Assassin and fully of a cold, calm madness. Red-haired and dressed in all black, she scares me.


[my muse] is an oddball, a decidedly insane person, I think alien to boot. Or an image of my cat. Sometimes I can’t tell. Certainly off the planet. She hasn’t told me her name yet. Probably because I couldn’t pronounce or spell it anyway, since I don’t have an alien keyboard. I’ll call her Jazzy, like my kindle and comp. On that thought, maybe it’s my comp integrated inside my brain. oh no….


I know exactly what you mean about [muses] not being characters! I thought mine was a character for the longest time and kept trying to put him in things, but it never, ever worked. And I’m a thick-headed dolt for not realizing it sooner. Somewhat embarassing.


I have actually told people, completely striaght-faced, “Yes, I do hear voices, I call them characters.”


I proceeded to try and explain that just because you write something doesn’t mean you meant for it, or that the writer wanted something to happen. I tried to explain that characters are liable to revolt and refuse to inspire you unless you follow their orders to a tee. And if you don’t? Well, no story for you, then.

Of course they didn’t get it.

Thick idiots.


It’s just what happens. People talk like authors control the stories we make up, but we don’t, not by a long shot. Our job is to discover, and then to write down what happens, not decree it.

This is a very small sample set taken from around ten minutes of not particularly diligent trawling through two thread. It’s all over the forums. Entertainingly, someone also made a post basically telling the people making these claims to STFU and stop blaming their characters for derailing the story.

I mean….. what the fuck? I’ve been on other writing forums before that didn’t have this shit.  I get the whole idea of either characters or the plot “writing themselves”, but there’s a line, and the point where you are literally telling people that your characters are sentient beings living in your head is where the line gets crossed. Not only is it just fucking stupid, it encourages writers to get so attached to their darlings that they’re afraid to let anything bad happen.

The only explanation I can come up with is that this is the result of whatever airborne contaminant is causing the Otherkin sub-culture on Tumblr, or perhaps Super Special Writers Club syndrome where everyone likes to make out how different and not like those ordinary mundanes they are for writing words. Or maybe it’s just a result of the general NaNoWriMo “aren’t-we-all-wacky-and-keraaaaaazy let’s bounce around throwing custard cream pies at each other while writing about ninja-whale zombie pirates that explode into sparkle dust when you hit them with bananas” atmosphere.

Anyway I now have all of my crotchety old man complaints out of my system, back to the writing.


5 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 10: Unleashing The Writer Within

  1. magpiewhotypes

    I have a feeling that lots of the forum participants are in their teens or at most very early twenties–the exact time of life where it’s ok to have a sexy “muse.” Well, it’s actually still intensely annoying if you have to deal with the existence of your friend’s tarted-up imaginary friend, but maybe only if you are the sulky type of person who hates ninja whale pirates (which I am).

  2. Signatus

    I have never, ever, in my life, met anyone who took the concept of “muse” more seriously than a mere abstract simplification of inspiration. Not to mention it is the first time I see people actually believing it is a real thing living in their heads, and it has some sort of personality.

    I admit I have never used that concept before, so I don’t need to mention I’m having a hard time taking these people seriously.

    As for characters writing their own story… it is a way of explaining that, when you have a clear concept of how your characters are supposed to behave, “they” might help you guide them through certain situations (that is, taking a realistic approach of a situation based on their personality, rather than the approach you’d like). But the whole concept of characters springing to life and moving the story however they want, is just stupid. They are no more than the constructions of the writer. You take them OOC, that’s your doing, not theirs. They can’t possibly be blamed for anything, as they don’t actually exist.

  3. Greentree

    I’m sure I’ve seen a video where Rothfuss makes fun of people who think their characters are real and let them derail the story. Then again, that means that isn’t the excuse for the pages and pages of nothing happening

  4. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

    I almost wish I’d become a teacher so I could teach a writing class because my first lesson would be “you do not have a muse, unless you are talking about the Nine Muses, who are ALL women, so I don’t want to hear any talk about your leather-pants-wearing dreamboat sex fantasy who is your ‘muse’.”

  5. Reveen

    I’ve never understood the “muse” stuff and how some people seem to need to wait around for inspiration and shit. Lots of writers throughout history got by just fine with scotch. Or stimulants if you happen to be Stephen King or Jack Kerouac.

    I figure it’s just people trying to rationalize the fact that they won’t just buckle down, figure out the story, and start writing it. Which is supposed to be what NaNo is about in the first place right?

    Though maybe if your rationalizations are talking to you in serial killer voices you have other problems.


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