One thing has become very clear (well, one thing besides my excruciatingly slow writing process) in my NaNoWriMo writing so far: I have no idea how to write a novel. I am not experienced with fiction writing.
Nonfiction writing is a different animal, one in which (at least theoretically) cats can’t start talking when the writing gets tricky. My two years of grad school in creative writing focused on nonfiction, and my lack of experience with fiction is suddenly so clear. I feel like I am playing “The Sims” — not that I’ve ever played the Sims, mind you, but I’ve heard stories. The most common being that the actual human being playing the game left their Sims character’s stove on and accidentally burned down said character’s house.
This is my house-burning episode: I left my main character alone in her apartment for too long, and she got mad at her circumstances, went a little crazy, and her cats started talking to her.
I’m used to writing nonfiction, where if you “leave” your “character” alone in her apartment too long, it’s because she actually stayed in her apartment too long in real life, and you are describing what happened. When you’ve got to re-write a scene because it’s not working, you can’t change those facts. You can only change a) whether you include those facts at all, and b) how you describe how those facts occurred. In other words, in nonfiction, to clean up this mess of a scene, my main character would have had to stay in her apartment, but I would have had to describe her anger and craziness in a different way.
In my slowly burgeoning novel, I took away the apartment scene. I just picked up my main character and had her go somewhere else. And lo and behold, she met some new characters, and those new characters have turned out to be very necessary to the story.
It’s strange that I’ve never tried to write a novel before, because I find that I like it. It’s addictive, in a way, finding out what your character will do next. Maybe most novelists have a plot outlined meticulously and before they sit down to write, they know what their character will do along the way. The rush of this month means that I do not know. I’m finding out as I go. All I know is that for now, I’ve staved off the talking cats.