Okay, so I’m calling it a day for NaNoWriMo. I’m not going to make it to 50,000 words. I’m not proud. In fact, it hurts a little. I hate admitting that I’m not going to reach a goal. Remember all the swearing I did when we hiked Saddle Mountain? Hiking to the top of Saddle Mountain sucked, but the whole time I was thinking, “Just a little further to go,” and “Just another mile,” and “We’re almost there,” and mostly, “I will hate myself if we go all this way and not reach the top.” It’s always a epic battle between two competing forms of self loathing. One part aspires to nearly unattainable goals as a “fun challenge,” and the other asks “why in the hell do I do this to myself?”
The 50,000 word goal gave me trouble right from the start. It’s supposed to make you write quickly, and not worry about quality. You’re just supposed to blast it out. I came to realize very early on, that writing quickly is haaaaard. I want to fuss over words. I want to say it exactly right. I had moments where I wrote the most bare bones description I could muster, and found that my big girl words completely escaped me. It felt lazy and inarticulate. I hated it even as I was pecking away on my keyboard. I didn’t like the feeling I was in a hurry. I didn’t enjoy feeling like everything I was writing would be completely scrapped later.
Last week, I got to 25,735 words before I realized that I had six days to write the remaining 24,265. I sat down for a whole day of writing and promised myself to bang out 10,000 words. Or at least 5,000 words. And then the next day, I’d need another 5,000 words. And the day after that, too. I struggled and writhed and sat at my desk for four hours and wrote…2,500 words.
That was my pattern. Four hours would net me 2,500 words. It felt like a snail’s pace. And it was agonizing. I very rarely got into a zone where the words just gushed out. It was almost always painful, and I hit a lot of road blocks. Mostly because I didn’t know what the hell I was writing about. I don’t mean that in an unenlightened or dimwitted sort of way, but in a factual knowledge way. I had many areas where I needed to know how something worked. I needed to know how funerals worked. I needed to know how living trusts worked. I needed to know how adjustments or improvements are made to historic buildings. I needed to know about environmental regulations on contaminated property. I needed to know when police answer a domestic disturbance call, to they knock on the door and announce “Police!” or do they just knock?
I wrote until I bumped up against what I didn’t know. And then I got frustrated. And I came to a deep understanding about myself. I hate making shit up. I hate not knowing things. I got caught up in those details and fretted about hinges in the plot that were dependent on things I didn’t know. I didn’t want to keep writing into a corner, or worse, write something that I really loved, that would later need to be scraped because it became implausible once I did the research.
Dave was reading my very rough drafts and pointed out that environmental regulations don’t make for gripping drama. Which it true, goddamnit. But I wanted to at least have a basic understanding of how things worked before I rested my story on them.
One aspect that did seem to work for me was writing dialogue. I seem to have a knack for it, if I do say so myself. I don’t feel like I have a firm grasp on writing fiction, but I do feel like I can tell a story through what characters say to each other. So my most productive days were long conversations. And in one instance, a character got away from me as she spoke, and revealed a deep evil streak that resolved a nagging question in my story.
I struggled with exposition, and also narration. There is one main character, and the story is told entirely through her memories and experiences. I didn’t want to jump around inside characters heads. I was thinking this may have all come from my time writing screenplays, where the story was told through dialogue, and you don’t get the luxury of knowing what a person is thinking.
Ultimately, I now have a story to write. Which is more than I had at the beginning of the month. I think I have all the pieces I need, and they all fit together. I still have research I need to do, and I need to come to terms with my crappy narration style. But I have a good, solid story. So that is a goal I’m happy to have reached.
Plus, I failed at the official goal of NaNoWriMo of writing 50,000 words, so I also get to beat myself up! Which I’m very good at, and it makes me happy.
Also, I’m overjoyed to get back to blogging about my failures, and beginning every sentence with “I.”