It’s time once again to think about the annual National Novel Writing Month. Didn’t I just go through all of this mental tennis with myself last month? Generally, I wouldn’t say this last year has flown by, but in the context of Nano, it feels like the year never happened almost.
Probably because I agonized over whether or not to do it last year for over a month.
If you will recall, last year the issue was whether to use Nano to jump start Novel 2, which is my next official big project. I was concerned that doing so might sink the project. My first two Nano Novels have not again seen the light of day since. And those two were mostly cold turkey starts. This was an ordained project, that I intended to be a part of my body of work.
I decided, however, that I could do it. I could write the first 50,000 words of my “legitimate” next novel under the umbrella of Nanowrimo, and have a solid head start on the rough draft for same.
I was about 70% wrong.
The plot got away from me. Quite a bit away from me, in fact. The partially outline I worked from takes some of the blame. But the worst of it is when I had to go beyond the outline in order to get to 50,000 words. Once I got to the total pantsing part of the process, the wheels started to come off.
Only at the the time I didn’t realize it. If I had known, I could have stopped. But I kept plugging away towards 50K. (That rhymes. The Nano people should put that on a shirt.) But once I started regular writing work on Novel 2 at the start of 2013, it became clear in a short time that it had a yoke around it’s neck. Or perhaps a millstone is a better metaphor. Call it what you will, Nanowrimo-ing was the main reason it was there.
I pressed on for a while. I slogged. Took breaks. Forced myself. You have to do some of that when you write a novel. But I realized it was no mere writer’s block. It was, in fact, an unsustainable plot, even through a first draft. Normally I complete a first draft without looking back. (Nano helped me do that, in fact.) I wanted to do that with this. Press to the finish line. But after much thought and regret I concluded that I wasn’t simply the injured last-place runner who insists on crossing the finish line. There was no finish line. As though the track had blown up and caught fire before I got there, and the whole place had been evacuated.
Thankfully, after a lot of brain wracking and severe editing, I was able to reboot the narrative in such a way that I now feel I can write the novel. The first draft will still be rough, and will need many revisions, but I can see the road now. Though now I think my brain might need to rest from Novel 2.
Enter, maybe, Nano 2013.
I didn’t intend to participate this year. Last year I “knew” I’d be working on revisions and latter drafts of Novel 2 by now, and that is priority. But after last year’s Nano, plus the sputtering, the gutting and the total rebooting of the broad outline of the plot, I have for a month or so felt weary of Novel 2. Also relived that I seem to have stumbled onto at least a broad road map (though some specifics are still unanswered). But not relived enough to jump in and write it. Perhaps I should, but if I learned anything form last year, it’s that sometimes resistance is there for a reason. I’ve forced work on this novel before and it didn’t take. I don’t think i should do it again.
So I’m thinking about Nano this year as a pallet cleanse if you will. Pure cold turkey writing again. Writing a novel that I had no previous plans or thoughts about. Something that will keep my long-form writing gears turning, but not derail my dedicated work on Novel 2. A return to writing-high. A high that I hope will have a residual effect on the rest of my writing.
No thoughts about legacy. No important “Novel 3” designation. No scheduling of its revisions. Just reckless, harried writing of a novel in 30 days. A novel to which I have no previously existing emotional attachment. A novel which, if I don’t like it can go in the pile with the rest of my forgotten Nano stuff. But if it turns out to be something, I can put it away, let it simmer, and work on it again after Novel 2’s long delayed first draft is complete. No pressure on myself.
Well, a bit of pressure on myself. There needs to be some in order for it to be fun at all, right? I’ve already proven beyond doubt that I can produce 50,000 words of a narrative in 30 days. What I have not proven is that I can produce a completed arc in those days. For though in all of my Nano experience I have gotten enough words, it has never been a complete story. If I do Nano this year, I hope to change that. I hope to have a completed, 50,000 word story arc in 30 days. It puts the challenge back into Nano a bit, but without the importance of starting Novel 2. And it will give me good practice on plotting, (which is probably my weaker component for novels.)
My only concern is that it will de-prioritize Novel 2 in my mind so much, that I will never return to it. Then again, it is a novel, a collection of words. And a currently incomplete one at that. It is not a prom date that I have stood up. I will be back to it. I just have those residual worries. But if I can convince myself in the end, I am helping my writing as a whole by taking this short detour, I might be able to do it.
So there you have it. My once again complicated thoughts on Nanowrimo. Are you doing it this year?