It’s probably not a great sign that I used that term in the title, huh?
No, seriously, NaNoWriMo went pretty well. My ending word count was 36,944. Almost 37K, out of an original 50K goal. It’s not too impressive compared to people who’d finished the 50K by the 15th, but it’s very impressive compared to the 12K or so I managed last year.
Some weird stuff happened along the way. I’d originally intended for it to be a single novel, with each madness-consumed area being a short segment building toward an ultimate reveal. Instead, I reached about 20K and realized, much to my dismay, that I was still on the first area, and not particularly close to finishing.
If I was going to do the idea justice, each segment would be its own, short, novel.
At 37K, the first part is finished, or at least a bare-bones version is. It’s messy, it’s ugly, and in places it’s lazy. More than once I order myself in caps lock to fix something later, and more than once I summarize something that really needed to be experienced in the moment.
Plot threads go nowhere, and the main character doesn’t have an entire arc so much as a fourth of one. The ending is an anticlimax, and very little delivers on its potential.
But that’s a NaNo novel in a nutshell. What was good about it?
I started to get a sense for the main character and the struggle they needed to go through. I had a lot of fun adapting a handful of game mechanics into meaningful narrative devices. I made decisions late in the novel that make the overall idea 10x better. And there are even places where the prose is something I can be proud of.
It’s a big mess with a lot of potential. As the saying goes, now I have a machine gun–wait, no. Now that I’ve filled the box with sand, I can start building the castles.
Even more than the novel itself, for me, NaNo was about the process. About learning lessons I’ve struggled with my entire writing career. How did that go?
I had two or three days near the beginning where I thought, “I can do this. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” Then I had about a week of, “This is tough, but I’m doing it.” The two weeks after that, I was driven over broken glass by the same stubbornness that got me through Dark Souls. The last few days were the worst. I can only describe it as the after-Thanksgiving feeling of swearing off food for life. Thinking about writing got me nauseous.
1600+ words a day is not my number. Not yet, anyway. It wears on the very fabric of my being, like Bilbo says: “Butter scraped over too much bread.”
That’s not to say that NaNo wasn’t good for me. There are more days than not where I don’t feel like sitting down and writing. Some days when I’d rather do anything else than the hard work of writing. But now I can acknowledge that no one asked whether I felt like it. I have a goal, and if I won’t reach it, I’m going to at least make constant progress.
And usually, after the first half hour of throwing a tantrum staring at the screen–flailing my arms and shouting that the words just aren’t there–the miraculous happens. The words are there. In a trickle, a handful at a time. But there.
And learning that, that I was just a half-hour, arm-flailing tantrum away from progress, was a lesson well worth learning.
Now, the question of what I’m going to do with the NaNo novel, and whether you’ll ever see it.
It’s not quite bad enough to post as-is. So, yay? It’ll require almost a page one rewrite, complete tearing down and rebuilding, this time outlining what I have as a novel all its own. And considering how sick of it I am, I don’t think I’ll touch it again until summer.
After the next draft of the NaNo novel, I’m going to decide whether to pursue traditional publishing, move toward self-publishing, or just splash it up on my site for free.