Friday, November 18, 2011

Good Storytelling Requires Effort

Resurrecting a blog at the beginning of NaNoWriMo was probably not the best decision I've ever made.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that this might be my last year doing NaNo. I'm at the point in the month where I'm frustrated and insisting that "This is it!" and after this month I'll be done forever, and I want to capture some of my thoughts so I can evaluate them and see whether they're legitimate, or if I'm just whining.

I spent a good six weeks creating characters and coming up with a rough plot. I did a moderate amount of world-building. November 1 was tough; it took a few days to hit my stride, and I did so by treating each segment of the novel as its own short story, which I could theoretically stitch together later. Though I was getting further and further behind the target wordcount, I was happy with what I was writing.

Then I hit The Middle.

At least one other person I know has experienced this phenomenon. The beginning? Easy. The end? It's all in the notes! Now, let's put them together...

Uhhh.... what?

It's the same kind of indecision you face when you're trying to pick out a quart of ice cream. There are so many flavors! They are all ice cream! Ahhh!

It didn't help that I went to a multi-region writing marathon and wrote 4,000 rambling words for the sole purpose of getting caught up (you know, the thing I said I wouldn't do!). The random ideas are all getting stuck in the door, and what I need now is a good six weeks to sit down and plan out the next section of the novel. Unfortunately, that's not how NaNo works. If I want to "win" NaNo, I need to bang out thousands of additional words, even if I know that every single one of those additional words exists to be destroyed in the rewrite.

That act, the desperate flailing to build a tower of letter blocks only to knock them down when I do my Godzilla impression, that is what stays with me when the month is over. I don't remember that I was genuinely excited about the project I was starting, I only remember that all writing is futile and a waste of time.

So, I'm reining it in. Taking it slow. Falling ridiculously far behind once more. One of my throwaway characters proved to be really interesting, so I want to take the time to explore what's going on from his perspective while my heroes are out gallivanting. Even if it doesn't make the final cut, it's better than the panic-babble because it builds my world and enables me to keep track of what's going on off-camera.

And I'm doing my best to have fun with it. For this particular story, I don't aspire to publication. It's purely for fun. I'm seeing how well I can handle science fiction in the hope that it will help me when I try to fix one of the fantasy novels I wrote and abandoned... or write a better one. Or maybe it won't help and I'll end up with a pretty okay story that gets buried on my hard drive. Whatever. But I want to do it on my terms, so if that means I won't hit 50,000 words this year, I don't care.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get people to quit wishing they had more time and to start writing. They have succeeded in getting me moving again, but I don't think the format is ideal for me. If I continue to participate, I'll proudly be one of those people who signs up, gets to 20,000 words, and then disappears, dragging the region's average down.

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