Dr. Wicked: NaNoWriMo’s Obstetrician

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By Alegra Clarke

November has come and gone and left me with some valuable lessons. The first lesson is that a heavily pregnant woman (that would be me) should never brag to her husband about how she “feels pretty confident that I will be able to write the first half of the novel this month, maybe even get close to the end.”

That is right, I strutted in front of November 1st rolling my neck, cracking my knuckles, daring NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to lift its gun in the air and begin the race. I was feeling in fine form. I planned not only to match last year’s stride towards the finish line but maybe cross it before the race was over, circle back to the beginning and start again. And then the gun went off. The earth trembled with the stampeding of thousands of fingers hitting keyboards all over the planet. I felt the adrenaline surge. I took my first stride forward and then…I fell on my face.

I would like to blame the whole ‘big and pregnant’ thing for the way I faltered but let’s face it, writing is a race of the mind, and the only thing that my mind was encumbered by was expectation. I was ripe with it. After months of research, mulling over plot, making attempts at the first several chapters and taking workshops, I had conceived this idea that 50,000 words were just waiting to emerge cleanly out of my mind. I was dreaming of a fully formed baby. In fact, I think I expected the novel to come out walking, talking and toilet-trained without a whole lot of sweat and effort on my part. Of course, I was wrong.

NaNoWriMo Lessons

Last year’s NaNoWriMo left me with a manuscript of harvestable material and the lesson that I am someone who needs to do some advance plotting before I begin writing. This year NaNoWriMo taught me that the first stages of labor are necessarily messy. Rough drafts do not always emerge from euphoric inspiration. In fact, mine required a lot of hard pushing and lots of swearing. I also learned that the best way to stall out is to have grand expectations.

I had about eight chapters outlined and I believed they would come tumbling out onto the page in technicolor, the characters fully realized, the prose singing. They didn’t. I panicked at the first sign that things were not going to go as painlessly as planned. I began pacing and searching for things to eat. I watched back to back episodes of “The Office.” I started to come up with elaborate rationalizations about how it was physically impossible to get the words out. I was stuck and an intervention was necessary. So, I took myself to the ER of writers: Dr. Wicked

Dr.Wicked is labor induction for words that need to get out. You choose the length of time you want to write and how fast and furious you want the pace to be set. I chose both ‘evil’ and ‘kamikaze’ modes—the meanest of the mean that Dr.Wicked has to offer. If the ‘electric shock’ mode was actually functional, I would have been setting myself up to be jolted.

I was ready to get the chapters out of my head. ‘Evil mode’ meant that I was given maybe 3 seconds to pause during writing before ‘kamikaze mode’ kicked in and started erasing everything I had previously written. It forced me to get past my expectations and start writing. One 48 minute with Dr.Wicked gave me about 1300 words. After about 5 sessions, I began to feel something like affection towards those screaming, messy rough drafts. I realized that they were a necessary stage, the beginning of my chapters cleaning up and coming to life as the cooing, rosy-cheeked sweethearts I had been daydreaming about.

Check out Alegra’s pre-NaNoWrimo post: Writing with the Bulls.

1 COMMENT

  1. Tony Noland 12.06.09 at 7:05 pm

    I can’t claim that I’m expecting a baby, but I second everything that you said about Write or Die. It was perfect for my NaNoWriMo this year. I describe my other writing tools here.
    Alegra Clarke 12.06.09 at 7:36 pm

    Dr. Wicked was my greatest discovery this month.
    Steve 12.06.09 at 8:04 pm

    It helped light the fire–I fought and fought until mid-month without it, and then used it to bust through the nnnnggggg. By week four I had adopted PyRoom (a WriteRoom clone), and the desperation of needing 20k in three days was enough 🙂 But all praises to Write or Die!
    KjM 12.06.09 at 8:25 pm

    As my chosen implements of torture for the NaNoWriMo exercise were, once again, pen and paper, Dr. Wicked was not available to me. And, did I ever need him. 24K+ words in the final four days. Not something I want to do to myself, or loved ones, again.

    This year I had about as much idea of what the novel was about, at the start, as I did last year. But, seemingly for grins, I upped the ante by telling the story from the perspective of three main protagonists.

    I could have used Dr. Wicked, and an outline, and someone to tell me I was nutz!

    I have to agree. Grand expectations are to be avoided. The way to achieve the goal – rear end in chair, fingers to keyboard (or pen nib to paper).

    Although, electric shock therapy might have its role to play. 🙂
    Alegra Clarke 12.06.09 at 9:17 pm

    Steve – Dr.Wicked is an excellent remedy for the nnnnngggggg! In fact, I am about to go visit him right now to bust through a block I’m having with a chapter scene.

    KjM – I am so impressed you achieved that with pen and paper! In my case, I am really hoping Dr.Wicked figures out how to make that electric shock option a reality ;o)
    Mystic 12.06.09 at 11:45 pm

    Isn’t it phenomenal how the affection comes for those messy rough drafts? They are the pillars really..

    It’s a bit like a fashion show. What everybody gets to see at the pretty faces, flawless skins, colorful clothes, perfect cat walking, matching music beats etc etc.. but what goes in making it a success, however, is not that pretty.
    Alegra Clarke 12.07.09 at 1:31 am

    Mystic – Well said. This NaNoWriMo has really allowed me to look at my first drafts (and often the next 2-30 drafts!) with affection and respect rather than the frustration I used to feel. I used to berate myself for not being able to ‘get it right’ or at least close, in the first draft or two.
    PJ 12.07.09 at 1:42 pm

    You always seem to find the good stuff. Maybe this Dr. Wicked is the kick in the tail I need. Lately, I’ve fallen into the dreaded Bejeweled trap instead of writing like I’m supposed too. The good news, however, is that I’m really good at Bejeweled now.
    Alegra Clarke 12.07.09 at 2:54 pm

    Pete,
    Kemari turned me on to Dr.Wicked and then another friend/writer Bill Henderson gave me the extra nudge to actually start using it once NaNoWriMo kicked in. I highly recommend it. It will help increase your endurance with writing and I think it will surprise you how much you write in a short amount of time. Plus, if you are looking for a good game, you can get into word wars with other Dr.Wicked users.
    DeborahB 12.08.09 at 3:52 pm

    Loved this article. Alegra, how do I make an appointment with Dr. W? Oh, best of wishes on the baby!
    Deborah
    Alegra Clarke 12.09.09 at 12:50 am

    Thanks Deborah!
    Dr.Wicked is always available…24/7 ready to drill sergeant those words out of you! Just click on the link. There is also a version you can download that won’t allow you to use the backspace or delete button – I am definitely planning to invest the $10 for that feature!
    Donna Earnhardt 12.14.09 at 11:53 pm

    I have not yet worked up the courage to engage Dr. Wicked in a game of chicken (novel style), but I am on the verge. I was a NaNo rebel this month and accomplished a lot on my list…just not a 50,000 word novel. Nor did I produce any new children. The three I have are plenty. 🙂

    Enjoy the process…the writing and the pregnant part. It all goes by far too quickly!

    peace,
    Donna
    kaolin fire 12.20.09 at 12:52 am

    Erm, are the forums down or is it just me?

    http://editorunleashed.com/forum/index.php

    I’m only getting the header/menu of any given page.
    mdpulaski 12.20.09 at 6:34 pm

    The forums down man, and I’m in a bad way. If I don’t get my fix soon, I’ll have to log on at WD. And that’s not the good stuff, I need the good stuff.

    Mike
    Charlee Vale 12.21.09 at 2:49 am

    Now, it’s not just you guys. It’s me too.
    What’s happening?

    CV
    JR Tomlin 12.21.09 at 3:30 am

    I am concerned. Has anyone heard anything from Maria?
    DeborahB 12.21.09 at 8:50 am

    yeah, what’s up? Or should I say down?
    AR Norris 12.21.09 at 11:32 am

    Hmmm….I thought for sure it’d be up by today. Any word from Maria?
    JR Tomlin 12.21.09 at 2:30 pm

    Warren has been in touch with Maria and she’s working on the problem.
    Lori 12.22.09 at 7:57 am

    LOVE the idea of an obstetrician for wordsmiths! LOL

    My game plan this year was to have an ending in mind. Without that, I’d struggled in previous years. I made it, but I’ll admit – I have no idea what those last 5K words look like. 🙂
    Tony Noland 12.23.09 at 1:03 pm

    Saw a tweet from Maria a few days ago that she was working on it.

    Still down as of 12/23/09. Maybe the “Why I Write” contest was going nuclear?
    JR Tomlin 12.23.09 at 11:47 pm

    Still nothing. Very unusual for it take this long to bring a forum back up.
    banana_the_poet 12.24.09 at 11:35 am

    Only joined the forum very recently – starting to feel like a jinx 🙁
    Anyone know what’s happening with the “Why I Write” contest? Is the forum down for everyone?

    Just wondering.
    Dave Schneider 12.24.09 at 12:40 pm

    According to Maria’s latest post on Twitter:
    “The Editor Unleashed forum is having a technical glitch with the server. I’m working on getting it fixed. Sorry!”
    8:37 AM Dec 21st from web
    banana_the_poet 12.24.09 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for that Dave – Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah and Seasons Greetings 🙂 XXX
    Ronda Laveen 12.25.09 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for posting that there is a technical problem with the Forum. I was hoping it wasn’t my computer.
    Joseph 12.26.09 at 5:14 pm

    Bragging never works (smiles)!

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