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The Cure for Pre-NaNo Itch

It’s really just the mental ferment of working on something new, but combined with anticipation, writers are inclined to complain a lot about The Itch. NaNo is coming, but it’s not here yet, and we’re champing at the bit. I’m glad to follow the rule that you start NaNo with a blank page, but when story development is bubbling and giving off that addictive aroma of creativity, the wait can be tough. I’ve just figured out a solution.

Start writing. Yes, go ahead and get it down, all those bits of dialogue running through your head, all the scene descriptions that you know you won’t remember when November first rolls around. Then, on October 31, tuck it all away in a safe place and forget about it.

November 1 is going to be a completely fresh start. It’s going to be different from what you’ve already written. It may be better; it may be worse. You won’t know which until you’ve finished. Whichever it is, the next stage is revision. And that’s the time to haul out that stash of pre-writes, the ones you wrote when you had time to think about it instead of frantically trying to make that daily word count. Maybe some of the pre-written material isn’t as good as November’s work, and maybe some of it is pure gold. But the fact that it’s there gives you something to work with, to stir and shake that novel into the shape you envisioned.

I made the plunge. It’s possible that not a single word of what I write down this month will ever make it into the novel, but it soothes the itch and it’s a kind of practice for the real thing. So here’s the first 500 words that may never again see the light of day, of The New Serfdom

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We were all a little tense as the prison van backed up slowly, the driver watching for Murph’s signal to stop. There was nothing to worry about, was there? It wasn’t the first time we’d taken a work consignment, after all, and a con was a con. But I was kidding myself. If it wasn’t that different, I wouldn’t be standing so close to Nolan, ready to . . . ready to what?

Murph was walking alongside the van, his arm raised. His arm dropped and . . . “Stop.” That was it. The motor cut off and we waited for the driver and guards to get out. Ira moved up next to Murph, his reader in hand, ready to accept the papers and make it all official.

The arguments had gone on for days before Nolan agreed it was worth trying out. I knew he wasn’t happy about it, but it did make sense, even if there were possible drawbacks. It was Ira that started the whole thing. He’d caught the notice in one of the Quack blow-ins. It looked like the usual self-serving PR that the Quincy Adams Correction Unit sent out on a regular basis. Once you started doing business with them, it was unavoidable. But the words FOR SALE in big bold letters caught his attention. I guess they would have caught anyone’s attention. You don’t expect the Quack to be selling anything.

Ira read it through, passed it on to Nolan, and Nolan told him to forget it. Leased labor had been working out just fine and he didn’t see any reason to try something new. But Ira isn’t shy about ignoring Nolan, so he passed it on to Murphy and Amanda. Murphy thought it was an okay idea if Nolan wanted it. He and his guys were old veterans at handling prisoners by now, and he figured it wouldn’t be all that different. Amanda wasn’t sure, but that wasn’t too surprising. You’d expect the head of security to be cautious.

The three of them hashed it out between them because Ira wasn’t about to go to Nolan again unless they had enough weight between them to be convincing. Of course, when he did, Nolan blew his stack and warned him off and that’s when they called me in on it. I was pissed because they’d done something like this before — talked Nolan into something he really didn’t want to do and it hadn’t worked out all that well. But I could see that this was different, that it could work out to the hold’s advantage, so I bearded the lion in his den and after a lot of yelling and threats, here we were.

Ira held out his reader for the download and then took a quick look through the papers the driver handed him. Bureaucracies never change; electronic wasn’t good enough, it all had to be duplicated on paper. Ira signed the top sheet, scratched his signature on the reader’s screen, and the men were ours. Now to see exactly what Nolan had bought.

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8 Comments

  1. I see you’ve gone for Gil’s narrative here. It’s really interesting already – I can see why you wouldn’t want to wait!

    Personally, once I’ve got something written down that I’m happy with I have difficulty changing it. Even if I’ve lost previously done work,I can’t rewrite it. So I think I’m going to have to stick to language-building and world-developing to placate The Itch.

    • I may not stick with Gil as the opening narrator. I’m still working through a lot of the problems, so I consider this just an experiment. I could well start it off completely differently when it comes down to NaNo time.

      Eventually, you’re going to have to deal with rewriting, but I think you’ll know when it’s the right time for you. It can be hard to discard something that works really well, but if ditching it improves the novel, you gotta do it.

      • Still, this is an interesting start, and Gil’s perspective seems like a good one to tell the story from – but I guess I’m not in possession of all the facts. It can take a while to figure out which voice is the right one.

        I’m not completely incapable of rewrites, but I do have to take several, large steps away from a story before I can do so otherwise I find it incredibly difficult, and am more likely to end up just deleting everything. I have a story idea that is particularly close to my heart, and which I started writing years ago without much direction. I’ve pretty much scrapped everything I did before, and I know where I want to go/what I want to do, but I can’t quite get it down despite being incredibly excited about it. I guess knowing where I’m going is a larger impediment to me than it should be :’)

        • Revision does require me to take a fairly big step away. I’m still reworking my 2010 NaNo novel, and it’s gone through a lot of changes, including slashing the opening chapter in half and combining it with with another chapter. It can be discouraging for the process to take so long, but the novel is going to be way better than it was originally. I hope.

          • I haven’t properly looked at my NaNo10 novel – although I know it’s not the best it could be. My NaNo11 novel is in need of a lot of work that I’m just incapable of doing.
            Scrapping is the most painful thing ever, save for accidentally losing work. I don’t think I’m brave enough to heavily revise something that I’d only written two years ago. I salute you! And wish you bonne chance with your

            • sorry, something strange happened there. But yes, good luck with the revision work. I’ll try and take inspiration from you and do the same!

            • I’d say give it time, but you’ve done that. I don’t think it’s lack of courage. Maybe it’s time to look at the older story and see if you can figure out what’s at the heart of the problem with doing revisions.

              Maybe, if I can think of a way to do it, I’ll write another series like the developmental series. On revision.

  1. New Serfdom — NaNo Creep « Tracking the Words: a yearly cycle
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