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Things I’m learning from NaNoWriMo

by Theo on November 4th, 2010
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I’m just under 6k words into my novel for NaNoWriMo, and this is what I’ve learned in the first three days:

1. I suck at writing crap.

I mean, technically, I’m pretty good at it. I can string together crap. Look:

George waited outside the rusted, ramshackle factory as the effervescent yellow lemon drop of the sun sank into the horizon, until the robot workers came out at closing so he could dramatically and emotionally confront the robo-welder who had murdered his beloved ficus plant.

See? Terrible. I’m perfectly capable of writing crap – do it all the time, in fact. The part I suck at is the mental part of it. My normal writing process involves a lot of pausing to mull over what I’ve just written, and a lot of scraping out the wrong words and phrases and fixing them as I go. If I write a whole scene that doesn’t work, I trash it and write something else in its place. I can’t stand just leaving something on the page if it’s not exactly what I wanted – hell, I even erase and rewrite the individual letters if I’m writing longhand and an “s” looks too cramped. I’ve been told that I write unusually polished first drafts; that is because I have the crazypants.

So, for a challenge like NaNoWriMo, where it’s imperative that you leave what you’ve written alone and move on to the next thing? Where I’m not allowed to fix every little detail and mull over a single page for an hour, and I have to leave the little bits of crap sitting there intact, glaring up at me with their beady little crap eyes?

Oh my god, you guys, I hate it so much. Flames on the sides of my face, guys. FLAMES.

The worst part is, I can tell this is good for me. And I’m loving other elements of the challenge. So I’m stuck with the crappy bits for another 27 days before I can edit, and I’ll just have to suck it up.

2. Writing is haaaaaard.

I always forget this between novels – even if I’ve only been between novels for a week, apparently. Then I buckle down and write, and my toddler brain (which is right next to the lizard brain and due south of the part of the brain that has a death grip on the National American University jingle, if you don’t remember your Psychology 101 diagrams) starts stomping around going, “This is hard! Why are we doing this! I want juice!”

I’m going to pick up some juice from the store tonight. Maybe that will help?

3. Psyching myself up to write? Also hard.

I’ve never been the sort of writer who waits for inspiration – I make my own. I’ve got a list on hand of ways to inspire myself to write more, I’ve got friends who’ve agreed to peer pressure me until I finish something, and I craft stories that I want to read, so I know they’ll hold my interest. Still, I find myself going, “But I can’t do this!” and waffling over whether to call the whole day a failure if I haven’t got my word count by dinner time.

So, I’ve been adding to my list of inspirations and coming up with irrefutable responses to everything my doubt says.

Doubt: “You can’t do this! It’s too many words in too short a time!”

Me: “I wrote 50k words/month for three months of my first semester of grad school just to see if I could, and I was taking two classes and working at the time. Compared to that, this is nothing.”

Doubt: “But it’s a whole book!”

Me: “Which I have all planned out. Besides, I wrote almost the entirety of Or Your Money Back over the course of three weeks.”

Doubt: “But 2,000 words in a day is so many words! Where are you going to get theĀ  motivation to do all that? And how can it possibly be any good?”

Me: “I wrote a 7,200 word fanfic chapter in a day last September. On a school night. Without an outline. And it wound up being the best part of that whole damn fic even without a beta reader. It made strangers on the internet cry.”

Doubt: “But…ah…um…”


4. In spite of everything else, I really do thrive on writing challenges.

Looking at my manuscript WIP in Scrivener sends a shiver of terror down my spine, but it also thrills me. I spend most of the day grinning. I wander off into story daydream territory while I’m working. Although it’s smoldering with rage at the crap I have to leave on the page, the crazypants part of me is also delighted to have permission to be so intensely focused on a story.

I’m even able to be focused on it within a community of other people who are going through the same thing – several communities, in fact. I have one group of friend and acquaintances to word war with over chat, one group on Ravelry, and another on Twitter.

Writing makes me happy. Having a writing community makes me happy. Learning about and expanding my own writing process makes me happy. NaNoWriMo makes me happy. We’ll see how I feel about it 27 days from now, but so far, so good.

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From → First Drafts, Writing

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