Today we are 6 days into National Novel Writing Month. Every November, we begin to lose some of our writing companions at this point. They may drop out without explanation. Some will admit they can’t write 1,667 words a day, let alone at all.
For everyone, the first days of euphoria are fading. That rush, that incredible feeling of “We can do this if we all pull together,” has worn off.
Now, when faced with the reality of what this challenge really means, the first round of writers who fail, quit the game.
All that means is they aren’t ready to write their novel. These people can sit at the keyboard and go gung-ho for a few paragraphs or even a few pages.
But then they hit a wall. They have nothing; their story is written. In their minds, they hear crickets.
It’s not a crime. It just means they aren’t ready to write a novel in thirty days. If they keep writing at whatever pace they are comfortable, they will get a novel written.
It helps to know that not every story is a novel. I have several short stories that I thought were novels when I had the idea to write them.
But at 6000 words, they were finished, and there was nothing more to say.
Some of us have the tools to soldier on through the doldrums and to write a novel in 30 days.
This is the point where discipline and a little planning really help. For me, knowing what I need to include helps me get the book written.
But even though I write to an outline, things come along that must be included or removed. My novel is a contemporary Gothic drama about a group of writers and artists. Symbols are really important in this because they create an atmosphere of darkness and gloom. I was writing along, when suddenly dragons cropped up, filling a void, and deepening my storyline.
As a child, my protagonist’s favorite book, the Hobbit, portrayed dragons as symbols of deceit, of impending doom, and harbingers of death. Thus, dragons are subliminal warnings to her. She subconsciously notices when they appear as
- A dragon pendant.
- Dragon shaped clouds.
- A rock shaped like a dragon.
- Shrubs trimmed to look like dragons.
- Toy dragons in every giftshop window.
- Dragon t-shirts.
- Dragon tattoos.
- Dragon earrings.
So, even though this novel is not fantasy, dragons play a large part in offering my protagonist subliminal clues about the unstated threat the antagonist poses, and in creating the Gothic atmosphere of the story.
Did I hear someone ask what makes a story Gothic?
- You need an oppressive atmosphere, populated with characters who each conceal dark secrets.
- Strong undercurrents of emotion, positive and negative, shade each conversation, giving clues to who the characters really are and what their role is in the drama.
- Some obvious clues as to who has good intentions and who plots evil are false, but the real clues are hidden in plain sight.
- At times, the protagonist feels hints of evil lurking just out of sight but can’t identify them.
- Subliminal symbols ratchet up the sense of dread, fear that something terrible will happen.
So far, this has been a fun novel to write. And, so far, it looks like it will make it to novel length—60,000 words or so is my goal.
When I laid down the outline, I didn’t have that subliminal signal down, other than cracked and broken objects in the scenery. Mirrors reflecting images reflected in other mirrors also figure prominently, but I knew those signs alone weren’t enough to create the sense of foreboding this tale deserves.
I knew something truly symbolic of deceit would make itself known to me, and it did in the form of a silver dragon pendant habitually worn by the antagonist. That led to me thinking about the many ways in which dragons could become allegories in this novel.
What will emerge next? I don’t know. I’m 18,000 words into it, and it has already undergone a radical evolution. Still, the inciting incident and all the plot points as originally outlined remain the same, as does the ending.
I love it when I can put symbolism and allegory to work. The first draft of my dark, Gothic drama is on track.
Credits and Attributions:
Smaug, illustration by David Demaret, 2012. David Demaret [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Smaug par David Demaret.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Smaug_par_David_Demaret.jpg&oldid=346075444 (accessed November 5, 2019).