Friday, October 31, 2014
Meanwhile, in the Barracks of the Typewriter Brigade
All right, you sorry excuses for novelists, time for a SPOT INSPECTION! Everybody fallllll in! Atten-HUT!
Rhino: Brigadiers! I have this here memo from HQ saying that I've got less than 24 hours to whip you into noveling shape! We have 30 days to take 50K Hill. Are you ready?
Brigade: Yes, sir.
Rhino: What was that? I can't heeearrr you!
Brigade: SIR, YES SIR!
Rhino: That's more like it. Private Pantser, front-and-center!
[Private Pantser slouches forward, rumpled and coffee-stained. A fine snow of post-it notes falls like leaves. Panster's fingertips are covered in ink.]
Panster: S-s-sir? I mean, SIR!
Rhino: Just look at yourself, soldier! And in heaven's name, WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS?
Panster: Just enjoying the breeze, SIR!
Rhino: All right, then. You're going into this battle unprepared, unorganized, and direction-less, is that correct?
Pantser: Sir, yes sir!
Rhino: You will turn whichever way the wind blows, writing whatever pops into that little precious snowflake of a mind, won't you?
Pantser: Sir, yes sir!
Rhino: Now, Panster. I don't want to hear any stories about you being riddled with doubt and uncertainty, do you understand? They are the enemy!
Panster: Yes sir! The enemy!
Rhino: If you write yourself into a foxhole in the middle of the month, what will you do?
Panster: Write my way out by any means necessary, sir!
Rhino: Cor-rect. Now tell me, soldier, do you see Private Planner over there? How would you describe the good Private?
Pantser: Sir! Neat and trim, sir! Slightly smug, sir! Alphabetized and organized, sir!
Rhino: Exactly what I see. And does this make Planner a better writer?
Panster: Sir? No... sir?
Rhino: You're damn tootin' it don't! Private Planner has just as much chance out there as any of you! Erase that doubt! What is doubt, soldier?
Pantser: The enemy, sir!
Rhino: Right again. You'll do fine, Private. But for heaven's sake, put down a towel when you sit.
Pantser: I shall, sir! Hygiene shall be my watchword, sir!
Rhino: All right, dismissed, Pantser.
# # #
Rhino: Private Planner, front-and-center-on-the-double-I-mean-it!
[Private Planner marches forward, chin up, knees forward, ramrod straight. A tidy file is tucked under each arm. Color-coded index cards are neatly rubber-banded and in each hand.]
Planner: Sir! Yes sir!
Rhino: So, Private Planner... looks to me like you have every contingency mapped out, don't you?
Planner: Sir, yes sir! In triplicate!
Rhino: You're a real go-getter, aren't you, Private? A real big thinker?
Planner: Sir! Don't want to fail the unit, sir! Eliminating all doubt as it is the enemy, as you rightly pointed out, sir!
Rhino: Pretty organized, I'll give you that. But let me paint you a picture, soldier. Let's say it's the 16th of November, and you're on the downhill side of your wordcount. All according to plan, right?
Planner: Sir, yes sir! Conflict resolution expected in five days, sir! Denouement in seven, and done early in time for pie, sir!
Rhino: I see what Pantser means, soldier, you *are* a little smug. But novels can get ugly, and they can get ugly fast! What happens when you discover that the cable guy is actually the protagonist's sister's ex high-school sweetheart who was supposed to die in that hovercraft accident but instead washed up ashore at the Buddhist temple with his memory gone, only to be nursed back to health where he regained his memory at last?
Planner: S-s-sir? I don't think I have a cable guy in my notes...
Rhino: Doesn't matter, soldier! Your characters can turn on you at any moment! You need to be prepared... to pants it! An outline's all nice and tidy in the forums, but when it's just you and the keys, you need to be ready! Ready to wing it, for the good of the novel!
Planner: Sir! Yes, sir!
Rhino: Now tell me, soldier, you see Private Pantser over there? Just look from the waist up.
Planner: Sir! yes, sir!
Rhino: Pantser would laugh off the unexpected cable guy, wouldn't you, Pantser?
Private Pantser: Sir! And would make the Buddhist monks ninjas as well, sir! Just for color, sir!
Rhino: You see what I mean, Planner? You can be careful and you can make a plan, but novels are messy! Dangerous! Unexpected! You won't know what you'll find until you write it! Be flexible, Planner!
Planner: Sir, yes sir!
Rhino: Remember: there's no hole you write yourself into that you can't write back out of. Maybe you have to detour a little. Maybe your chapters come out of order. But you get yourself up that Hill no matter what it takes!
Planner: Sir, yes sir!
Rhino: All right, Planner. Dismissed.
# # #
Rhino: Now then, Typewriter Mafia... falllllllll in!
[Typewriter Mafia comes to a loose semblance of order. A few are carrying mysterious laptop-shaped bundles under their arms.]
Mafia: Sir! Yo, whadaya want, sir!
Rhino: Now it says here that many of you folks are over on this end of the barracks on account of "mysterious typewriter accidents" and "circumstances outside of your control." Do I have that correct?
Mafia: Sir! What's it to you, sir!
Rhino: Now I'm no stranger to being a victim of life circumstances. I know some of you fine folks are like Pantser or Planner over there, keen to get started, but having to associate with the... lower elements of life. Laptop users. Hand-writers. Alphasmarties.
[A shudder ripples through the barracks]
Rhino: Steady, Brigade, steady. Now all of you, look at one another! Take a good, long look! Yes, even at Pantser over there. Any of you could be on the other side at any time! This is NaNoWriMo, people! Your machine could throw a mainspring and put you into the Mafia! Or, you could find a machine at Goodwill and bammo! You're typing again!
Mafia: Sir! Ain't much for philosophy nor hypotheticals, sir!
Rhino: All right then, I'll keep this simple. Any of you, and I mean *all* of you, are in this here Brigade, whether you're typing or not! And we are going to take 50K Hill together!
All: Sir! Yes sir!
Rhino: What's our battle cry?
All: Sir! Coffee-extra-strong-with-cream-and-two-sugars, sir!
Rhino: What's our *other* battle cry?
All: ALL THE WAY TO 50K, SIR!
Rhino: You're damn right. I'll be honest with you, Brigadiers. All of you will be facing Doubt and Uncertainty this month. There's a little bit of the enemy in all of us! But if you start to waver, if your courage starts to fail, just remember: old General Rhino is right there behind you, to give you what you need. And what is that, Brigadiers?
All: A sharp poke in the butt, sir!
Rhino: Correct! You're an inspiration, all of you. Now! Line up in time-zone order, get your machines at the ready, and I want to see you come out writing! Is that clear?
All: SIR! YES SIR!
Rhino: Where are we going?
All: ALL THE WAY TO 50K!
Rhino: When are we going?
All: RIGHT AFTER COFFEE, SIR!
Rhino: All right, then, Brigade. Dissssssss-missed! Get out there and WRITE!