Please just excuse me while I scream.
So, yah. The frustration and anxiety are eating me alive about now. And I’m generally not a fan of being eating alive by anything. That’s just…yuck.
But we are on day 13 of NaNo. Unlucky day 13? I’d like to blame it on superstition and numerology, but honestly…this has been building since before November and has just now hit a pitch that is giving me nightmares and has me sitting here at the computer gasping for fresh air .
Last year was the first year I finished NaNo. It was an amazing experience. I pushed myself past barriers I didn’t know I had, and yes, there was anxiety there too. But I don’t remember it being this bad, although that could be due to the Twizzler induced sugar highs, and the pure thrill of realizing for the first time that I could do this, I could get to 50K.
And I was so proud of myself when I reached that line. I was floating for months after that. Until I realized that I’d been following all the rules of NaNo, i.e. have fun with it, don’t worry because first drafts are supposed to suck, and no one ever needs to see it except for you. I found that strangely comforting during NaNo 2010. Until I reached about day 29, and hurriedly wrote a terribly flimsy ending to my half-told 50K story, and on December 1st realized that my book was heavy on the 50K and very light on actual story. It really went no-where.
My characters spent entire acts just wandering around campus, getting to know their surroundings and the other people in their lives. Which might be fine, for about half a chapter, if they had just awoken from a 10 year coma, but as far as I know they had been conscious throughout the last decade and this went on for the majority of my book. I’d gone into it with an idea for an event that I wanted to have occur, a big, life-changing, world-altering event and wanted to see how these characters dealt with it.
But, I didn’t really know who my characters where or how “The Event” worked, or whether the event was supposed to happen at the beginning, middle or end of my story and so I just wrote whatever came to mind. Sometimes I made up new characters and wrote from their point of view, sometimes I just let them wander through the airport in Paris.
Plot holes abound. And at some point at 3am at a write-in at Denny’s I’m pretty sure I was challenged to have my main character smoke pot. I’m not sure if it was her or I with the awesome inability to withstand peer-pressure, but yep, mid escape for her life and trying to save the world, my character decides to gets high.
But I was determined I was gonna finish this thing. Because, well I have issues with finishings, and it seemed kind of an important step to becoming a published author, so I committed myself to this mess for the forseeable future.
I spent the entire summer studying structure, and learning about plot and all those things they don’t actually teach you in creative writing classes. And became utterly overwhelmed and confused. I found 6 or 7 systems that I sort of liked, none of them completely. And none of them seemed compatible with any other.
Finally, I decided I was going to give this thing a few more months and then box it. I’d give it another shot as my NaNo 11 novel. Keeping some of the characters and the setting, as well as one or two scenes that I had actually liked from round one, but for all intents and purposes starting over and writing it as an entirely new book.
I spent part of September and all of October, trying to build my world and understand my characters and nail down an outline of sorts.
And when November 1st came, I was off and running.
Until about 3 days later when I was just… off.
Everything I had learned over the past year was just screaming in my head: You aren’t doing that right! Whyyyy are your characters so bo-ring? You aren’t supposed to have so much exposition. Show don’t tell! What happened to your inciting incident? Your dialogue is lame! That is so cliche’. Wasn’t there supposed to be a goal in this scene? Ever heard of conflict? Really, you are going to move everything around again? Wait, that character isn’t even supposed to exist! Blah Blah Blah. Voices, screaming at me so loudly that I can hardly even think to type.
And then there’s the outside pressure.
Last year. This was just a fun experiment to see if I could actually do it. Everyone else was in the same boat as me. Some of us failed, some of us succeeded, but we were a family, and we were all feeling the same things, and we cheered each other on and it was amazing, ridiculous fun.
This year, the fun has been eaten by outside expectations. There are the expectations of my family and close friends who know I have been working on this project for an entire year now and are beginning to doubt my sanity in continuing; or, I suspect, that I’m even working on anything at all.
I can understand this even. Writing a book looks so much easier from the outside. You can’t imagine the blood and sweat and tears and unbelievable amounts of time that go into writing one. Especially the first one. When you are still learning how to tame this thing.
I haven’t had the heart to tell them yet that this is probably just a practice novel. That it will likely never see an agent, let alone a publisher or sit proudly on a shelf as proof of the work I have put into it. My niece and nephews don’t get the concept that you can be a writer and not be JK Rowling or Eoin Colfer or Kaleb Nation or Aprilynne Pike. These are the only writers they have for reference and the idea of this book failing to make me into an over-night celebrity and best-seller just doesn’t compute for them. But I have to love them for their child-like faith in me.
There’s the few writer friends I have who know what I’m working on and expect at some point to be able to read this novel, to give feeback or critiques or point me along the next steps on the path. And of course, I adore these people and don’t want to let them down…but I also don’t want to miss out on the place I’m at in my life where I have such wonderful writerly people as these around. People that are better than me, and that I can learn at the feet of. I feel the need to take advantage of my blessings, and to just suck it up and BE a competent writer already!
But, I sit here now, at day 13, and although, I’ve lagged along pretty much at par on my word count, I have no story. Despite my word-building and outlining, this thing is a bigger mess than the first one. I’m realizing that my process is to write a lot of crap to get to the good stuff. Which means that to get a novel of 80k words, just a first draft, I’ll probably end up writing more like 160-200k words. Which means, November 30th is not going to be even close to the end of my sucky, ugly, must-hide-in-a-deep-dark-hole first draft, and I have no idea how long it will be until I have something that I feel ready to share. Do I give it the rest of the time that it needs, or do I make a clean break and start fresh? I really feel the need to see this through to the ugly end, but how can I justify giving that much more time to a project that will go in a drawer.
It’s also intimidating knowing real writers. Either a) They don’t need NaNo. or B) They crank through this NaNo thing like they are slicing through jello. 50k words within the first 3 days, first week, first 2 weeks. Worse yet. They are ready to share these masterpieces while they are still writing them. And they are so NOT sucky first drafts.
This throws my whole notion of what is possible with NaNo, right out the window and I feel like I must not be trying hard enough. But my Neanderthal brain, as hard as I push it, cannot produce anything close to what they can on a first draft. I’m not sure if it can on a 10th draft.
I know, I know. Put the inner editor away, you say. And I can for a while, while I’m writing. It’s when I look up from the page and return to the real world that the pressure starts to build again and I start to ask myself…. can I do this? Can I do this at all? And even if I can do it once… taking years to get it right, that’s when my problems really start, because then I hopefully have an agent and a publisher and am expected to crank this stuff out on a much more regular basis and…. and…. my brain starts to explode.
Anyone else out there stuck in the quicksand with me today?
I’m off to gorge myself on Twizzlers and re-read Mr. Baty’s book about all of this somehow not being a problem.
- Day 12: “There’s No Crying In NaNo!” (christiangoth.wordpress.com)
- The Truth About My NaNoWriMo Manuscript (melleamade.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo (anaquana.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo Day 13 – The Power of Willpower (also Bribery) (cheddarnightmares.wordpress.com)
- The ups and downs of NaNoWriMo (day 10) (randomsays.com)
- 50,000 words? I’ll get there … eventually! (elegantlyexpressed.wordpress.com)