NaNoWriMo: Researching la vida loca

Ah, yes, here it is, November 11, and I’m clocking in at word 10,048 of my National Novel Writing Month story–only 8,000 words or so shy of where I should be if I were the type of person to worry about these things. Which I really am, truth be told, but worry isn’t the same as blind panic, so let’s just imagine me tossing my head in a devil-may-care manner and laughing merrily in the face of pressure. Or tossing back a stiff scotch in an oh-crap-time-you-are-an-evil-cow manner and whimpering less than winsomely in the face of cold, hard truth.

Or maybe let’s not imagine me at all. That might be easier.

Let’s talk instead about research and all that simply fabulicious advice that gets tossed around about how important it is to avoid diving into the Google brain-suck pool while trying to hammer out that first draft, even if you desperately need to know whether a Sig Sauer takes a magazine or a clip or if you load it by gripping bullets the size of fingers between your teeth and spitting them into empty chambers. Even if you want to know whether it’s possible to perform a Bilateral Cingulotomy on a brain with only a paring knife and a couple of toothpicks (not recommended, by the way).  Even if you think your story is doomed to explode into a million shards of fictive splatterosity  if you don’t discover right this very exact minute how many times a day Spongebob Squarepants has to take a poop.

The preponderance of interwebby advice seems to be, “Stop! Don’t jump! Step away from the Google and keep your eyes on the story. The gaps will wait till later.” (Tell that to Spongebob after he’s stuffed his spongy self with prunes and Metamucil.)

It’s good advice. Obviously. Why waste precious noveling time trekking through the webbyverse to find out whether the frontalis or orbicularis muscles are responsible for lifting the eyebrows and making the forehead all crinkly (it’s the former); or refreshing your memory regarding the more entertaining names for the highly poisonous Caladium plant (Heart of Jesus or Angel Wings; good grief, who names these plants?); or trying to nail down that perfect shade of blue for your villain’s eyes (ultramarine? viridian? glaucous? International Klein Blue?–go on, I dare you).

Obviously your story can wait for you to plug in those pivotal bits of plotterificness at a later date. No brainer, right?

Except–and you had to know this was coming–except sometimes the story can’t wait. Sometimes the story plonks its butt down on the big comfy couch and refuses to budge until you feed it a few tasty tidbits of knowledge, of lore and legend, of nourishing Google esoterica. Sometimes the story wants the facts, ma’am, and nothing but the facts will do to get it moving again.

And the other part of the “except” is this: sometimes this weird and wonderful detour into the land of rollicking factoids brings unexpected gifts, new directions, a previously uncontemplated story angle. Sometimes that “waste” of times pays off in unexpected ways.

Of course, that could well be one of the reasons I’m 8,000 words behind, too, so you might want to go with the experts on this one.

Linky goodness for NaNoers and non-NaNoers

At the last moment–yesterday evening, in fact–I decided, oh what the hey, why not dive into National Novel Writing Month again. It’s been a year or two or more since I’ve participated, and I always feel this little (okay, biggish) stab of jealousy when I read all the angst-ridden November posts about plots gone rogue, late night typing frenzies, and the general woe-ishness that comes from being 10,000 shy of the weekly target.

I’d considered it early October but thought, no, not this year. I don’t have a strong enough story idea bubbling away on the back burner waiting for the chance to upchuck itself all over the keyboard in 30 fun-filled days. But then last night I thought, well, so what? No percolated plot? No problem! I wrote a (very short) series of flash pieces several months ago, maybe 1,200 words in total, set in a dystopian not-too-distant future, and I’d always kinda, sorta thought of revisiting that world one day. Why not now?

And that was that. I’m in.

What about you? Are you dipping your toes in the NaNoWriMo waters this year for the first or the eleventy-first time? Well, if you are, and you’re looking for a little distraction or inspiration, I have some very tasty links to share with you. (And, if you’re not NaNo-ing, click anyway, because these sites have nothing to do with NaNoWriMo, and everything to do with being yummy brain food. Eat up!)

largehearted boy offers book reviews, contests, interesting articles, and (saving the best for last) a section called Book Notes where “authors discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.” In some cases this might be a playlist of the music the author listened to as she or he wrote, in others it might be the music that influenced the writing, or in still other cases the connection might be something else entirely. It makes for fascinating reading, whichever way you slice it.

The Public Domain Review was a new find for me this week, “an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to promoting and celebrating the public domain in all its richness and variety.” Here you’ll find books (such asThe Life and Adventures of James F. O’Connell, the Tattooed Man [1845] or A Dictionary of Victorian Slang [1990]), films (such asÉmile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie [1908]), essays, images and audio collections, all of which have made it into the public domain. It’s a gold mine of inspiration. Not to mention an almighty time suck, so enter with care.

Finally, if you’ve run out of stultifyingly boring dramas and brain-sucking sitcoms to watch on TV or on Netflix, check out Unplug the TV. Here you will find approximately a bazillion and four videos to nourish your noggin and help you wow your co-workers with your ability to pontificate about antimatter (does it fall up? Well, does it? Go on, watch and find out); dogs (and the three things they should not be doing), and the science of laziness.