Friday, November 30, 2007

Waving the White Flag

With about 14 hours left of the Nanowrimo madness, I am officially throwing in the towel and calling it quits. It was a good run, I got a little over 40,000 words written, and although I had originally planned to glue my ass to the chair and churn out 10k words today, I decided against it. As much as I hate, HATE, quitting anything (I'm already having thoughts of abandoning the post and going for my word count) here's why I have come to this decision:
  • Purpose Sometimes, things happen so fast that you lose sight of why you do them in the first place. Looking back on some of the assignments I've taken or conferences I've attended, I don't understand why I did it. That's the way I began to feel about Nano this year. I was churning out page after page, knowing that it wasn't any good and I kept telling myself it doesn't matter if it's good, just get your word count. Then I remembered, I've written a novel before. I've written three novels before. I have nothing to prove. The original purpose of Nano was to light a fire under me and to get me started on the story. It did. I've learned a lot about my characters and which plot lines are going to work (more like which one's aren't). But to sit here and churn out 10k bad words that I'm not going to use later just because of an internet challenge, serves no purpose.
  • Time Although writing time did play a small role in my Nano short comings, a lot of it had to do with lack of preparation. Although I claim I seldom outline, which is true, I always have a mental outline drawn out in my head. This time, I didn't. I was just writing and writing and it seemed like I was going in circles. Some writers work like that, some writers end up surprising themselves (and therefore the reader) with plot twists and turning points they never expected to happen. I don't. My characters usually end up in a kitchen, talking about what's going on over cups of coffee (I don't know why). I kicked Nano's ass last year because I had a plan, because the story had been marinating inside me for so long that it couldn't wait to be told. So November, instead of being Novel Writing month, has been marinating month for me. I've had the time to realize my characters, work out some plot kinks, and in about a week I should be ready to start my story from the beginning.
  • Self Control I know it sounds weird to quit a writing challenge because of self control, but let me explain. I am a competitive person and I'm only starting to realize how competitive. I never do things half-assed either. I get obsessed. I did a sprint triathlon, now I want to do the Ironman. I beat a swimming state record, now I want to beat ALL the state records. It took me 6 months to write my first book, then I wanted to do it in one. I won last year, I want to do it again this year, even though I was completely unprepared. It's a compulsion. But I know, deep down, that this is not an effective way to spend my writing time, that I'm far better off using today to plot and outline (or read and do the laundry I've been neglecting) than to slave over 10k words that have no chance of being usable, even if I technically "lose" this challenge.

I do believe that Nanowrimo serves a purpose; that for many, including myself, it can be a very beneficial way to spend a month. Last year, I started the book that is now being submitted to agents. Knowing that there are thousands of people all over the world working toward the same goal, truly gets you motivated and, more importantly, gets you writing. Although I won't be joining the winner's circle this year, I did come away with more developed characters, a better sense of story, and about 150 pages of throat clearing, which I can never see as wasted time. It's like a scrimmage, practicing for the main event. Any time spent writing, is never a waste, because it serves as practice, helping you get better and more prepared for the next time around.


Quinn said...

I was going to be all "Don't give up! You can do it! Just rephrase the same sentence over and over..." but ultimately I think your logic winds out over my mindless cheerleading. Particularly given that you've already written a few novels, and you've probably culled about as much motivation from Nano as it's ever going to give you.

When you're just getting started with this novelism business, Nano's sort of like the magic feather that you think makes it possible to actually accomplish such a feat. But in the end, the magic was in you all along!

Also, you broke a swimming record? You want to do the Ironman? I'm not sure you have much left to prove at this point.

Ronni said...

Your logic here is laudable, and I can't wait to see and read the new book!