So, tonight on the way back from the IKEA write-in (which was awesome, by the way, and we should totally do it again next year) I had one of those little funny stories that you tell to your kids happen to me, and realized that, while being a Tale O’ Woe, it also made a great metaphor for what you should be doing with your novel right now.
So I’m on my way up the highway heading back home, and my car decides that now is a great time to flip the everloving bananas out on me. Long story short, I’m on a highway in the dark with a car that is quite determined that it is not going anywhere else. First things first. What do we do or not do and what’s the metaphor for our novel?
1. Don’t panic. Panicing while going down the highway at 70 miles an hour generally tends to be messy. Panicking when writing 50k in a month is also messy, though thankfully not in the literal, dead kind of way. So your car (novel) is parked by the side of the highway (month) and it’s not going anywhere and you’ve got somewhere to be (the finish line). It’s okay! Just because your novel is not still moving doesn’t mean you can’t get it home in time. Take a deep breath and don’t think about your wordcount in terms of how much you are behind, but rather how much you can do. (No, you don’t have to do 500 words in 10 minutes. I just chose those because they’re nice round numbers).
2. Come prepared. When I had my car parked, I dug in my bag of holding, er, purse, for my flashlight, a pencil and pad (as much as I wanted to say it was to put this in my novel, it was only for phone numbers), and my car’s manual because nobody puts hazard lights on cars in any SENSIBLE location. You, too, have all the tools you need for novelling. You have your computers (alternately typewriters or pad and pencil). You have your word processing tools. You have Write or Die (if you don’t have Write or Die, what are you doing?! This is only one of the most amazing tools ever, not only for the negative punishments if you stop writing, but also because setting a time limit commits you to a period of time to write. Works even better with the desktop version in fullscreen mode.)
3. Call for help. First I called cousin for a ride home, then mother to get me the towing company the family uses. She didn’t remember, so she pulled out the phone book. You, too, have people you can rely on for when the road gets a little rough. There are the forums and the chatroom, and also a writein going on every day. If you’re staring at the wall, jump in the chat and join in a word war (works for the same reason Write or Die does: committing to a time frame and also, competition > dedication.) or hop in the car and drive down to a writein. I promise the drive is worth it, and I probably have farther to drive. 😀
4. Have a backup plan. The first tow truck couldn’t come out for two hours and wanted me to wait with my car to pay them since my insurance wasn’t the one calling them. The metaphor here is: If your first plot point to drag you home doesn’t work out, try another!
5. Have another backup plan. The second tow truck couldn’t come out because his tow truck was broken down.
6. Have a backup plan for the backup plans. Police dispatchers can apparently get a tow truck out to your car! I wouldn’t know because apparently I was juuuuuust far enough over the county line that they couldn’t help me.
7. Know when to pack it up and go home. At this point, we decided the towers could take it to the shop tomorrow. Some days, in cases of catastrophic car failure, you may not make your wordcount goal. Just refer back to number 1, and remember, there’s always tomorrow to make it up. (Unless tomorrow is December 1, in which case, WRITE LIKE MAD!)
8. Don’t kick puppies. It’s bad karma. When you have bad karma, your car and novels explode. So don’t kick puppies. Not that I kick puppies, but I was pretty mean to my characters the day before. So, um, you may want to reconsider that tragic ending. Or donate to Nano! It gets you a pretty halo and lots of good karma.
9. You can make a metaphor out of ANYTHING.
10. tias should not write pep talks at 11PM after catastrophic car failure, because then she thinks her metaphors are interesting.
If all else fails…just remember that at least catastrophic car failure is not happening to you, and also that your metaphors are probably better.