Oh sí! Sí! Dame más! Quiero más peptalks!
Si ha habido algo que he echado de menos en el NaNoWriMo de este año, consciente y dolorosamente, han sido las charlas (o peptalks) de Chris Baty. Sin querer ofender a los escritores profesionales que se han encargado de ello (u ofendiendo a Neil Gaiman, venga, que me cae como una patada de sobrevaloración en la boca del estómago), lo siento pero you fail, así en general. Unos más y otros menos pero las charlas de este año no han tenido nada que ver con las de los años anteriores. Les falta chispa, les falta todo, les falta esa sensación de que Chris realmente quiere que escribas. Y quiere que escribas tú, no contarte su vida o qué estaba haciendo “cuando escribí mi primer libro”. Si quisiéramos un tour guiado por el ego de esos autores visitaríamos sus páginas. Lo que queremos en Noviembre es alguien que nos escriba diciéndonos “Ya veo, estás en la semana dos. Quieres morir. O al menos quieres tener tiempo para atender a tu vida, que está llorando en la esquina mientras observas el bebé desfigurado y aullante que es tu novela. Pero sabes qué? Yo confío en ti. Yo sé que puedes hacerlo. Puedes convertir ese bebé deforme en uno que al menos no tenga la piel verde. Estoy esperándote en la meta volante de las 25mil palabras con chocolate, sidra irlandesa y favores sexuales si es eso lo que quieres”. No me interesa lo que tal o cual escritor profesional hizo para escribir tal o cual novela. Quiero promesas de chocolate, sidra irlandesa y favores sexuales.
Por eso cuando hoy he recibido un mail del NaNo remitido por Chris he saltado en la silla. Las peptalks de este año me han dado bastante igual pero ha sido volver a leerle a él y pensar “Ha valido la pena hacerlo”. Y entonces he llegado a este párrafo:
I learned that I really missed writing the pep talks that go out to all NaNo participants. So next year, I’ll be wielding the pep-whip again, along with the pros we recruit.
Y entonces sí que me ha hecho feliz. Tengo la teoría de que Chris Baty podría ser líder de una secta o presidente de EEUU -uh… cuál es la diferencia? xD- si le diera la real gana porque si hay una palabra con la que se le puede definir es “inspirador”. No importa lo cansado que estés, lo poco que te apetezca hacerlo, lo bloqueado que te encuentres con el argumento; una charla de Chris aparece donde sea y entonces decides que tienes que empujar un poco más, hasta las 500 palabras. Hasta las 1000 palabras. Hasta las 1667 para así poderte ir a la cama sin sentir que has decepcionado a ese californiano desconocido que, mira por dónde, cree que puedes hacerlo bastante más que tus padres. Tal vez por eso este año he renqueado como una mula parapléjica. Pero tuve suerte. Murphy sonrió benévolamente y decidió que precisamente este Noviembre, en el que nos hemos visto cruelmente privados de la genialidad de Chris en aras de escritores profesionales que no han funcionado ni la mitad de bien, yo me decidiera por fin a comprarme su libro.
No plot? No problem! es Chris Baty en su máximo apogeo. Es un libro entero, ENTERITO, de Chris Baty animándote, que es algo así como una de las mejores cosas del mundo. Si nunca habéis participado en el NaNoWriMo o leido sus peptalks posiblemente eso no os dirá nada. Si lo habéis hecho, no sé cómo podéis vivir sin el libro para esos once meses del año en los que tenemos que vivir sin Chris. Este post se me quedaría corto para comentar todos los puntos en los que me he emocionado o he pensado “Joder, es que eso es exactamente lo que me pasa!”, pero tened por seguro que lo haré en este blog de vez en cuando.
De momento sólo puedo decir tres cosas: la primera que detrás del link de “Leer más” encontraréis las cuatro peptalks del año pasado, generosamente recopiladas por Elenis y Fer. Pensaba incluir la carta a los ganadores de este año pero temo que eso os haga pensar que apoyo el que no hayais escrito este año así que no voy a hacerlo ¬¬U La segunda, que si esto no te empuja a escribir o al menos a pensar seriamente en desarrollar esos mocos de los que ya hemos hablado, eres un extraño individuo. Como NaNoWriTer ligeramente experimentada os diré que otra cosa que acojona de Chris es cómo sabe exactamente en cada segundo de Noviembre lo que estás pensando y las excusas que te estás mostrando a ti mismo para poder abandonar. La tercera:
CHRIS BATY, QUIERO SER LA MADRE DE TUS HIJOS!! *___*
Por si no había quedado claro.
From: Chris Baty
Date: 01-nov-2006 11:09
Subject: NaNoWriMo :: Week One
Greetings! My name is Chris Baty, and I’m the director of National Novel Writing Month. Welcome to this year’s noveling extravaganza! It’s great to have you writing with us.
As impossible as it may seem standing here on the precipice overlooking a vast November, NaNoWriMo will be over before you know it. This month—like the book you started writing today—moves at a frightful pace. To help give you a heads-up on some of the spirit-lifting milestones and spleen-poking hazards we’ll be flying past on our way to 50K, I’ll be sending an email like this one to you every Wednesday of the month.
Which brings me neatly to the subject at hand: Week One.
Ah, sweet Week One.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a NaNoWriMo veteran, Week One is epic. We step onto its stage clutching a few crumpled lines of dialogue, and bearing only the haziest notions of setting and story. And, when the curtain closes on the seventh day, we’re improbably directing a strange and wonderful cast of characters, all of them eager to make their mark on the tale unfolding around them.
The keys to thriving in Week One are straightforward:
1) Surge early. To be on par for the month, you should be writing 1667 words per day. In Week One, try to get 2000 or 2500 a day, and beg, borrow, and steal as much of the first weekend as possible to write. You won’t need to keep up this pace throughout the month, but nothing guarantees a NaNoWriMo victory (and a fun month) like opening up a hefty lead in the first week.
2) Know that you’re not doing any of this alone. As you dive into your book, 70,000 other souls are going through the same ups and downs of the Great Sleep-Deprived Novel. Whenever you’re feeling like hurling your laptop out the window or setting fire to your favorite noveling notebook, come to a local write-in or stop by the NaNoWriMo forums for encouragement and reassurance. Likewise, whe never you’ve had a ferociously productive writing day, celebrate by sending a pep talk or sports car or box of fantastically expensive Swiss chocolates to a writer in distress.
3) Embrace the fear. It’s okay to be nervous. Nervous just means you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone—which is when great and magical things happen. Even if you have a complete story outline to serve as a map for the month, it’s still terrifying to be stepping out into the frontier of your imagination. I blame this on a lifetime of exposure to the perplexing idea that art should be made by artists, and novels left to novelists.
As someone who has done NaNoWriMo for eight years now, I can tell you this: Novels are not written by novelists. Novels are written by everyday people who give themselves permission to write novels. Whatever your writing experience, you have a book in you that only you can write. And November is a beautiful month to get it written.
Have a great first week, everyone! I’ll be writing like crazy until Wednesday the 8th, when I’ll drop by your inbox again with some thoughts about the spleen-tastic adventures awaiting us in Week Two.
Subject: NaNoWriMo :: Week Two
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 00:57:38 -0800
Dear NaNoWriMo Participant,
Hi there! It’s Chris Baty again. And if you accepted the challenge in last week’s email, you opened a comfortable word-count lead right out of the gate, increased that lead in the first weekend, and are now sailing far ahead of pace, preparing to plunge into the 20,000s.
You are looking good, feeling great, and your back is slowly accumulating an array of “kick me” signs, placed there by your fellow participants as you sprinted past us. A few signs, though, are a small price to pay for victory. And you *are* going to be victorious. If you are a day or less from 20K, you have everything it takes to win, and win big. Keep it up. Don’t slow down. We admire you, even if you made us feel so bad about ourselves that we had to put those signs on you.
But this email is not for those doing exceptionally well. It’s for the rest of us—authors with underdeveloped word counts, overdeveloped novel-guilt complexes, and sensational procrastinating abilities. Because we are the ones who are going to begin having serious misgivings about this whole escapade in the next seven days.
Because it turns out we are too busy to do this.
Or because a crisis has brought some novel-eating turmoil into our lives.
Or because our stories are really, really bad, and we’re wondering why we’re sacrificing so much of our time to produce a consistently crappy book.
It all adds up to the fabled Week Two Wall—a low-point of energy, enthusiasm, and joie de novel that strikes most NaNoWriMo participants between days 7 and 14. This is when our inner editors, who largely turned a blind eye to our novel flailings in Week One, return to see how things are going. And their assessments are never kind.
The plot is draggy. The characters are boring. The dialogue is pointless, and the prose has all the panache of something dashed off by a distracted kindergartner.
If you’re feeling any of these things—or find yourself starting to feel them this week—know that nothing is wrong. In fact, you’re likely on track for a great NaNoWriMo. Just lower your head, pick up your pace, and write straight into the maw of your misgivings. If you are thinking about quitting, DO NOT DO IT IN WEEK TWO.
If you have to quit, do it in Week Three.
Because if you quit in Week Two, you’re going to miss an amazing moment—the moment when your novel begins to click. You’ll miss a genius plot twist you can’t foresee right now that will suddenly elevate your book from a distressing mess to a sort-of-tolerable mess. And then you’ll miss the euphoric breakthrough that follows that twist, when your book improves itself all the way to not-half-bad.
Not-half-bad will make you scream, it feels so good.
And you know what? The more you write, the better it gets. So make it a priority to write in torrents this week. Allow your characters to change, and have change forced upon them. Follow your intuition, even if it leads away from where you thought your book was heading. And know that writing a novel is like building a car. Your only job this month is to create a clunky machine that will eventually move people from one place to another. If your beast rolls at all at this point, you’re doing great. Pretty prose, snappy dialogue, brilliant metaphors—they’re all part of the high-gloss paint job and finishing touches we put on *after* the body is built.
In December, we’ll have nothing but time for adding flames to our hoods and airbrushing a majestic eagle or pair of sunrise stallions on the sides of our new rides. For now, the 20,000s are calling, and we can’t get distracted by the small stuff if we’re going to get there. In the challenging confines of Week Two, our books will truly be built. Characters will evolve. Plots will unfold. It’s going to be difficult at times, but once we make it into (and out of) the 20,000s, everything gets much easier. And envious tales of our literary feat-in-the-making will begin circulating amongst our friends, family, and co-workers.
At which point, we’ll probably find a note or two on our backs as well.
It’ll be awesome.
Keep plowing onward, brave writer! Good things are coming. I’ll be back next Wednesday for some thoughts on Week Three.
Dreaming about my airbrushed eagle,
8400 words and counting
From: Chris Baty
Date: 17-nov-2006 8:36
Subject: NaNoWriMo :: Week Three
You remember those overachieving participants I talked about in last week’s email? The ones speeding past us with word counts in the 20,000s, and “kick me” signs fluttering from their backs?
Most of them will be cruising into the 50,000-word winners’ circle this week.
But you know what? I’ve been doing a little research. And I’ve discovered that thousands of participants haven’t written word *one* of their books. Which makes those of us with more than 10,000 words to our name look pretty darn good by comparison. Not as far ahead as we’d like to be, maybe. But nowhere near out of contention.
And this is where I need to talk a little bit about 35K.
To me, there are two milestones in NaNoWriMo. The obvious one is 50k, when the champagne flows and the confetti falls, and your friends hoist you up on their shoulders and sing songs about your heroic novel-writing feat.
My favorite moment of the whole endeavor, though, comes at 35K. There’s less singing, mind you, but when you hit 35k, you won’t need a word-count tool to tell you you’re there. If Week Two had a wall of fatigue at its core; Week Three is built around this glorious, chocolate-covered door called 35K. That portal opens into a wonderland of renewed energy, revived bookish enthusiasm, and serious happy-dances at the computer keyboard.
Because when you pass 35k, the gravity of the whole event changes. Writing is easier. Plotting is easier. And at 35K, you will see something in the distance that is both wonderful and bittersweet.
You’ll see the end of this crazy noveling adventure.
We’ll talk more about that next week. For now, the only important thing is getting to 35K. For those of us in the lower rungs of the word-coun t bracket, that may seem an impossible feat. But as NaNoWriMo participants, we eat the impossible for breakfast.
And just to make sure you have everything you need for this week’s intense writing sessions, I’ve asked our technical overseer Russ to pack a little something extra into this email.
You see, eight years ago, while trekking across Tibet, I met an old yak farmer who lived alone in a small yurt filled with paperbacks. The older volumes were self-help guides to better living through topical applications of yak butter. But the more recent books included an array of detective fiction set in London, sci-fi tales about interplanetary wars between asparagus creatures, and a sassy series about a young woman just starting to make a name for herself in the publishing industry.
The farmer, it turns out, had written all of them.
When I asked him how he managed it, he explained that he’d found a secret totem on the s teppe that endowed its possessor with superheroic noveling powers.
I excitedly told him about my idea for founding a project where everyone in the world would write a 50,000-word novel from scratch. He wept. Then he went and dug out the brown, wooden totem, and placed it in my hand. “Share it with your people,” he said. “I don’t need it anymore. Book contracts have ceased to have any meaning for me since Bertelsmann AG bought Random House.”
He then lowered his sad eyes, and disappeared, leaving me with the curious object and keys to his yurt.
Thanks to that totem, I’ve managed to write a 50,000-word novel every year, overcoming dastardly word-count deficits and my own diabolical procrastinatory tendencies.
But now I think it’s time to pass the torch. This morning, I ground up the totem, and asked Russ to carefully imbed a tiny portion of it into every Week Three pep talk email. You have it no w, and its magical writerly effects will last at least through the end of the month, and probably much longer.
All I ask in return is that you honor the last request the old man made to me before riding off into the yak-filled sunset.
“Please be at 35,000 words by the end of Week Three,” he said. I nodded. I had no idea what he was talking about.
But I know now. As do you.
The challenge is mighty, but you are mightier still.
See you at 35K, writer!
18,400 words, 4 yaks, and 1 jumbo latte
Subject: NaNoWriMo :: Week Four
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2006 15:31:57 -0800
We’ve been through a lot together these past 21 days. We’ve laughed at our books. We’ve cried at our books. And, in the last three weeks, we’ve progressed steadily together through the five stages of novel-writing.
And together we’ve grown as—oh wait.
Those aren’t the five stages of novel-writing. They’re the five stages of grieving.
Well, there goes this week’s pep talk.
But you know what? Those stages actually work pretty well for NaNoWriMo too.
Stage/Week One definitely had plenty of denial (“this isn’t going to be that hard”). Stage/Week Two was full of anger (“why do I do this to myself every year?”). Then came Stage/Week Three’s bargaining (“I’m spending Sunday in bed watching TV, but only because I’m going to get up at 4 AM Monday and write 18,000 words before I go to wor k.”)
And now we reach Stage/Week Four. Depression.
Why depression? Shouldn’t this be the all-out party point? What about the stuff in last week’s email about 35K and the gravity changing and the Tibetan yak farmer with the superpowered writing totem? Isn’t Week Four supposed to be the point when everything gets easier?
In a word: Yes.
This weekend, we’ll hit the home stretch. Where our books leap into the 40,000s, and we bat out the last 10,000 words in an exuberant rush, crossing the 50k finish line with a few days (or minutes) to spare. A true storybook ending.
But there’s also a certain bewilderment that comes with setting an impossible goal, working like mad, and then looking up to discover that you are on the verge of achieving it. Winning NaNoWriMo is something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, but winning means ending, and it’s a little sad to accept (Stage Five!) the fact that the focus, pro ductivity, and imaginative mayhem of these last 21 days will go away soon.
I’ll talk about maintaining that momentum year-round in my final email, which will go out the first week of December. For now, though, we have a challenge to complete. And whatever your word count, know that you are on track for completing it. If that means you need to write 49,900 words this week, so be it. People do it every year. We’ll have the wrist-icer, massage technician, and a gilded novelist crown ready for you when you come flying around the 50K bend.
The end is in sight! I’ll see you at the finish line.
32,100 words and counting