Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nanowrimo Win

Well, I did it. I won Nanowrimo for the first time ever. Let's pick this apart and figure out exactly what it means.

 The first time I tried Nano, I tried to write a brand new novel with nothing to go on but a scrap of inspiration. It took me to some interesting places, but it wasn't enough to carry me through the second week. The second time I tried Nano, I had already been working on a project I'd started in September. I decided I'd try to finish it. About halfway through, I knew I wasn't going to make word count, so I changed my goal. I would update every day until the end. I made that goal.

I've learned a great deal about story structure this past year, from various sources. I applied it to the mess last year's novel became, and it helped quite a bit. I also recognized a pattern in my own writing where I will write too many characters and subplots, ballooning my novel to ridiculous size. Last year's novel will take a lot of trimming to be an appropriate length.

I set out to write a brand new novel this November, but this time I had a plan. I mean, literally. I planned this novel in advance. I knew what was going to happen for each of the major story events, and I knew when in the story I wanted those things to happen. I knew my target word count, 80k, so I knew roughly at what word count every major story event happened.

I had always assumed that planning a novel meant outlining, and that outlining would suck the life and fun out of my novel before I'd even begun. I didn't write an outline. I just wrote down a page of notes and word counts, based on what I'd learned about story structure. When I started writing on November 1, I knew where I was going and what I was doing.

Instead of sucking the life and fun out of my novel, this provided me with motivation and guidance. When I felt like I was stuck, I looked at those notes, and seeing how close I was to the next story event inspired me. This pushed and compressed the dreaded swampy middle to about 10k words toward the middle of act two, difficult only because of some things I need to research. I had an opportunity to eliminate a character from my plan before I'd actually written them into the novel.

Yesterday, with 48.8k written, I was so excited to finish, I was giddy. Then I crossed the 50k mark and crashed hard. Sure, I was proud. I'd accomplished something I never had before. I'd officially won Nanowrimo. I also felt let down. I'd written 50k words in 29 days and it hadn't even really been that hard. Why haven't I ever done this before? I haven't actually completed this novel: I still have at least 30k to go. I still have to research for that part I mentioned above (I just faked it to get through. It will need rewriting). Will I even end up with something I like? Is there too much sex in it? Does anybody even want to read this crap?

Well, you get the picture. Once I didn't have this month of writing madness to hold up my fragile ego, all my doubts came falling in on me again. I have a birthday party to plan for this weekend, my apartment is a disaster. Ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Writing is easy. Life is hard.

I probably won't do an official Nano again. Now that I've done it once, I can see why a lot of people hate it. What I need is a steady writing practice that allows time for everything else in my life, not an excuse to dump everything and live in fantasy for a whole month. I need to balance fantasy and reality.

Well, I think I've rambled enough. Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on finishing NaNo! I have to admit that I've never attempted it, for a number of reasons. I think it's a great challenge, but having ROW80, a challenge in which I can set my own goals and revise them as life happens, feels much more natural to me. In any case, you just wrote 50,000 words in a month, so seriously, do a happy dance!

    I completely get where you're coming from with structure. I have only recently realized that a lack of structure has doomed many of WIPs, and I'm trying to remedy that. Larry Brooks' Story Engineering has helped me a great deal with this, as have Jami Gold's beat sheets based on Brooks' and Blake Snyder's works. I like that you didn't feel the need to do a formal outline. I'm going to try outlining and see if it works. If not, I might try something similar to what you mentioned.

    Good luck finishing your novel! In the meantime, enjoy the feeling of success that undoubtedly comes with finishing NaNo!