I’m not going to “win” at NaNoWriMo, unless I get a really fierce impulse and churn out 10,000 words by tomorrow night. It’s not actually impossible, but not very likely. I work really well to a deadline, but things got very busy at work this month and deadlines I get paid for always take precedence for those that I don’t. Then there was Thanksgiving, and I thought I could use the vacation time to catch up but of course it doesn’t really work that way.
I don’t feel particularly bad about not getting to 50,000 words. I would probably feel better about it if I had, but I understand why I didn’t and feel like it was still a valuable experience. I’m really enjoying the story that I’m telling, and I’m going to finish my novel anyway because now I’m all invested in how it comes out. I feel like the process has been very good for me. I feel like I now know how to write a novel. I enjoy writing and like telling stories, but the whole concept of writing a novel used to feel intimidating. It doesn’t feel that way anymore. I am just letting the story happen and enjoying the ways it surprises me. Once I’m done telling the story, then I get to go back and do things like divide it up into chapters and edit it into something someone else might want to read. I’m actually a very good editor, though you probably wouldn’t know it from reading this blog because I don’t edit my posts. The idea of having 75 – 100,00 words (yeah, it will probably be that long by the time the story wraps up) to edit sounds like a fun challenge. It will definitely take more than a month.
What I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo:
1. It’s ok to suck, at least in the first and maybe second or third draft. The story comes first. I can always improve bad writing, but I can’t improve what’s not there. Get it out first and then worry about prettying it up.
2. Trust the story. This was by far the biggest thing I got out of it. If things are happening a certain way, let them happen, even if it wasn’t what I had in mind. In fact, work at not having anything in mind at all. I had one character show up fairly early in the story, completely unbidden. I thought I knew where things were going and I didn’t need an extra character right there. I even got his gender wrong at first. I thought he was a girl until he actually came into the scene and I realized my mistake. I figured he would be a very minor character and would wander off out of the story, but he made himself indispensable right away and now I think he may be hiding a secret that will make him absolutely integral to the plot. I don’t know for sure, though; he keeps surprising me. Other characters keep dropping dark hints about him, but maybe they are red herrings. I don‘t know. It’s a form of meditation to not try to manipulate things and just let the story unfold.
This is kind of scary, because every time I sit down to write I have no idea where things will go. It’s a fun kind of scary, and I think it’s a form of journeying – it’s stepping into the Otherworld, but on paper.
3. Discipline discipline discipline. It’s like exercise or meditation – doing a whole lot one day a week is not nearly as beneficial as doing a little bit every day. I think 500 words a day is a realistic goal. At that rate, I’ll reach the end of the story by around Imbolc. This sounds reasonable and right, and is my new goal for writing. Maybe in a year I’ll have something I can show someone. Slow is fine. There’s no rush – this is for me and no one else. Yet.
4. Writing is fun. I already pretty much knew this, but this experience reinforced that for me. Writing is one of the things I can do that gets me into a state of flow.
This is my process, so these lessons may not be applicable to anyone but me. The pep-talk letters we got through the month from various famous writers helped out, but the latest one from Garth Nix startled me because he talked about writing a chapter at a time – writing one chapter, then polishing it up and making it into a really good chapter, then moving on the next chapter. I could not possibly do that. It just sounds like a choppy and distracting way of working. I would never even finish the first chapter. My novel doesn’t even have chapters yet, and won’t until after it’s done. But Garth Nix is the guy who wrote Abhorsen, and there is nothing broken-up or disjointed about his writing at all. I only wish I could write that well. So obviously everyone has different ways of going about this process.
I’ve missed blogging and I’m glad to pick things up and get back to normal again. I kind of forgot about the Internet for the past few weeks, which means I probably needed a break from it, but hey, I like you all and missed you. I have also let some of my spiritual practices slip this month – there is actual dust on my altar, and that Will Not Do – but with December things will go back to the way they should be. This weekend, I’m giving my altar a thorough overhaul and cleaning, I’m catching up on my SoA work, and I’m reorienting myself to my AODA work to come up with a list of goals for December. And I’m going to post here at least once a week.