Ah, the sounds of NaNoWriMo 2011: tapping keys, a purring cat, the slurp of fresh coffee, the whir of the brain, and the ignored phone calls that attempt to interfere with the rush of words spilling forth.
Last year, I exceeded the 50,000 word goal and I have great plans to continue completing NaNoWriMo every year from 2010 onwards. Already I have reached 10,048 words and day two isn’t even close to being over.
Ah, yes, I can hear you muttering obscenities under your breath and wishing ill upon my creative juices.
You see, I am excellent when the inspiration is early. If I churn through the words early in the project, I have a novel written rather quickly (or rather, I quickly approach the 45,000 word mark with a tappitytaptap). 10,000 words in two days is slow for me – especially considering the amount of time I’ve spent procrastinating and wasting time.
10,000 words a day is more like it, but it’s a matter of keeping that momentum going. Quantity is never a problem for me. Quality is often pursued and sometimes gained. My problem is not meeting the word count or coming up with ideas, my problem is in the following-through. What happens after November? When I have my messy pile of words before me, what do I do?
Yes, day two and I’m already wondering about the “what next”.
Last year, I barely touched my NaNoWriMo novel after mid-December. Sure, I increased the words and left it far beyond the 50,000 word mark, but I never finished it. By March, I’d moved on to other creative pursuits – none of which have been finished; none of which have been looked at after the initial interest has dissipated.
After that momentum dies, I don’t return to my words, to my chapters, to my novel.
I have many, many novels scattered across various hard drives and notebooks – some are lost along with the computers they were written upon, others are “somewhere” on a back-up disc in the bottom of a dusty box, and others are wedged halfway in my brain and halfway on some paper. My problem is not quantity, quality, or even motivation – I can remain motivated for days at a time (when I’m not unmotivated). My problem is not following through with what I write. I start novels and never finish them, no matter how many words I invest in them.
It’s about confidence, really.
If I read my novel, will it be as bad as I remember, or worse? What can I resurrect from it? What can I tease from the pages and use in something of higher standard – how do I make it bigger, brighter, BEST?!
… Come on, Stef. It’s a first draft. You have to start somewhere.
In a moment of serious procrastination, I stumbled upon this quote from Terry Pratchett:
The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
So, I’m going to keep telling myself the story. There’s step one, because telling that story is hard and this year I’m not only determined to finish NaNoWriMo and meet the 50,000 words but I’m determined to finish my novel.
My problem is not writing vast pages of prose (or, as I like to call it, crap) – my problem is finding the motivation to return to it. Often the metaphor of childbirth is used with writing a novel – you nurture it, love it, then finally bring it into the world and feel fear at letting it go, but you know you have to.
Once I’ve pulled the novel from my soul, I want to leave it where I cannot see it, to not have to touch it or examine it, or even think about it. I hope, truly, that should I ever have children I do not feel towards them as I feel towards my novels. I shudder to think of others seeing my writing as it is, but I don’t want to fix it, to make it better, because it means having to acknowledge its faults, acknowledge that it is imperfect, and acknowledge that I may be a writer, but I’m not a very disciplined one.
But this year is different. I’m going to finish my novel. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll come back to my story and try to tell it to someone else.
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.
– James Michener
That’s my second step. And by the end of December, I will have something worth revising for a second time. And a third. And a fourth and fifth. Then maybe I’ll have something worth sharing with the world.
This year, NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s about writing a novel, beginning to end, and having the confidence to go back to it.
On that note, I’ll leave you with this quote:
Every writer I know has trouble writing.
– Joseph Heller