Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Plot, No Story

So it's 10:00 AM on day 12 of NaNo. I'm nearly 800 words ahead of where I needed to be yesterday, which means my job will be easier today. However, as I write this story, I'm realizing something very dramatic: there's very little plot. It's disappointing, really; throughout the story I have a pretty distinct theme, and there's certainly setting, but there's not much of a plot.

Chris Baty - founder of National Novel Writing Month - says "No plot, no problem". Outwardly, the message of that seems uplifting: just write. Don't worry about the little things as you push through NaNo; just write. At the end of the month, though, if you've pumped out fifty thousand words, and you have no plot, you're going to have the biggest editing headache imaginable. No plot? Great, now you have to go through your entire story and make everything fit to the plot that you decide to stick into it. It's gonna be messy, and you're not going to like it.

That's where my beef with NaNo comes in. The good points: 1) it gets me writing every November in a way that I should be writing every day, all year long; 2) I meet new writers from around the city and sometimes around the world; 3) I'm writing, and I love the feeling I get when I'm writing and when I've accomplished something. However, NaNo does one thing very well. It pulls in all of the people who call themselves writers, who spend very little time at their craft, who don't study the classics or the contemporaries or even the critics. They write because they think it's fun (and believe me, I do, too), and they have grandiose ideas about getting published. I work very hard at what I do; I study, and I write, and I rewrite, and I learn from my fellow writers. One thing I've learned over the years is that if you've got no story, then you have no readers; and if you have no plot, then you have no story.

Now, I'm not dissing NaNo. In fact, I commend its ability to pull writers out of the woodwork. I'm all about creative education, and NaNo is a great example of that. What I'm criticizing are the people who treat my profession like a hobby and think challenging themselves to silly things like adding gnomes into their story at some point where the main character will freak out. Why? What does that add to the story?

I'm sorry, now I'm ranting. And I still don't have much of a plot. At least my main character is a likable guy.

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