Friday, December 2, 2011
NaNoWriMo is done. Over. And I failed.
I tried; I really did. 50,000 words is a lot, sure, but it wasn't an unachievable goal. Many folks reached or surpassed that number. Hell, in the NaNoWriMo Group on Facebook, there were folks who cranked out nearly half of the target in the first week alone. Many folks "won" this year by reaching or surpassing 50,000 words, and I applaud them. It ain't easy to do!
To say I fell short of the mark would be an understatement. At month's end I had just shy of 10,000 words - less than a fifth of the goal. (OK, confession time: I really probably wrote closer to 25,000 words if you count everything I wrote and then immediately discarded as being worthless, terrible, or downright embarrassingly poor writing. Still, that's only half the way there.)
It was not for lack of ideas. I had plenty of them - scribbled on scraps of paper and backs of envelopes, recorded on the Voice Memo app on my iPhone, swirling through my mind at night keeping me awake. What I seemed incapable of doing was distilling those ideas down to basic English words and phrases and putting them on paper or screen in any way that resembled a coherent story.
It was not for lack of support. Many friends spent the month cheering me on, pushing me along, letting me vent my frustrations and telling me to shut up and write when the situation called for it. Thank you all; I apologize for not completing the task despite your best efforts and your good advices.
I spent more than one night staring at a blank screen, willing myself with all my might to start putting words down, and feeling that internal block pushing back just as mightily. I tried everything: write meaningless bullshit until the words start flowing, write about a character going through the mundane actions of the day until he or she does something interesting, create dialogue equivalent to small talk between characters and let that conversation build.
I tried to write with music on. I tried to write with music off. I turned off my modem so that I would not be distracted by the Internet and Facebook and Twitter. I tried writing in different rooms of the house. I tried writing outside of the house. I tried writing at different times of the day. And I grew more frustrated as the month wore on, and I saw - and felt - the time slip away with little progress being made.
I discovered a few things. I don't write in chronological order; rather, I start to delve into a scene no matter where it is in the story's timeline. Hey, I figure when the words actually do flow, who am I to stop the current simply because I haven't yet written the chapter before it? My secondary characters are more fully fleshed out than my main characters. The MCs have become little more than the vehicles for the inherent conflict that drives the story, whereas the SCs with whom they interact along the way have evolved into almost real people. I kept thinking that if only I could get to know the MCs as well as I did the SCs, then things would really start to happen. Unfortunately, they hid their true selves from me. I still don't even know their last names. (Oh, don't get me started on naming characters...one character has had her name changed at least four or five times already...)
To top it all off, as I dug deeper into the story, I opened a door that created an entire second cast of characters and a completely new subplot. That happened around the 20th day of the month, and while it was a breakthrough for the story, it sealed my fate for NaNoWriMo - it was just too much to think about.
So, I failed. I didn't reach my goal. I didn't "win" NaNoWriMo. But, I'm glad I did it, and I'm sure when I am finished beating myself up for not reaching 50,000 words I will see the positives of doing it. People are already trying to show them to me: made a major plot breakthrough, have 10,000 more words than I did on November 1, am continuing to learn about and improve my own writing style and habits, and so forth. On a certain level I know that, but right now I'm not ready to accept it. Right now, in my mind, I failed. Let me wallow in that for awhile, please. I need to do so to process it.
I will keep writing the story. But I know now that it'll be slow going. And next year, just maybe I'll come back and take on NaNoWriMo again.