Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNo 2015: Aftermath

Fun, I said.
Nice experience, I said.
What in the hell was I thinking?

Guys, I'm not gonna lie here. This turned out to be the hardest, most stressful, teeth grinding and hair-pulling NaNo year ever. So many thing kept going wrong, so many distractions, so many doubts. I questioned my abilities as a writer because just a month before I'd finished a 42k novel without breaking a sweat! How could I go from that gloriousness to spending hours staring at the screen and barely writing a thing?

Good question.

Week 1: I was only able to meet and surpass the Reverse NaNo wordcount goal on the second day and fourth. By the end of this week, I felt something wasn't right. After taking a minute (or an hour) to rant about it to my writer friends, I sucked it up, adjusted my fabulous new glasses, and continued writing.

Week 2: Even worse! The depths of my frustration and disappointment at not being able to do this as smoothly as the year before ate away at me with each wordcount goal I couldn't meet. Again, I stopped to think. What was holding me back? It wasn't the story. I loved the characters and was pretty happy with the overall plot (though I could've done a bit more work on the outline). It wasn't a lack of desire to write the thing, because even with all the frustration of barely keeping up with, I did want to keep writing Milo's Café!

So what was it? The pressure? Well, I was putting too much pressure on myself, especially after failing the wordcount goals. So, the first thing I did was let go of Reverse Nano and print out a new calendar with regular NaNo wordcount goals. Not the total expected count for each day, just the word goal per day. That sweet 1,667. Notice that up to that point I'd met the goals on each day I wrote. Great! The calendar no longer stressed me out.

Total of 49, 830 even with Scrivener telling me I had 50,024...

Week 3: Things went smoother this week. I could look at the calendar and not choke back a sob. It still took me all day long to hit the goals, but the guilt and doubt were kept at bay. I kept thinking about what I'd done before with my other projectthe glorious 42k oneand why things were so different this time around. At the end of that week, the light bulb went off in my head.

The reason why the 42k went smoother is because I took my time with each chapter. I would write the skeleton of a scene, then go back over it again and again, editing, fleshing it out, slowly but surely. And every new chapter was a sure step forward because I knew that what I'd written before was pretty solid.

This layering process, this mix of writing/editing, is a luxury NaNo does not allow time for. And that's fine. But not for me. It seems like the most ridiculous oversight, not remembering this is how I work best. This is my process.

Week 4 & 5: Even with two zeroes in there, I still did way better than in previous weeks. I allowed myself a little bit of revision, not on what I'd already written, but on each new scene. I found the words flowing easier and that wordcount bar filling faster.

I still had to write until the very last day, something that had never happened to me before, but this NaNo had already turned out to be the wackiest I'd ever done, so whatever! I finished, validated the novel, and it told me I only had 49,830 words. I groaned over the 170 missing words and wrote them anew, plus an extra 107 for a total of...

Fun? No so much.
Nice experience? Not particularly.
Worth it? Yes!

In taking the time to think about the process of writing, I was able to pinpoint exactly how I approach a story: how I  build a scene, what I do as I build it, how I set up chapters, how I get into character. Becoming aware of my process helped me understand why I had so much trouble getting used to the NaNo process. Even more fascinating, I didn't have trouble in NaNo 2014 because I hadn't settled on a personal writing process yet!

I might've graduated from SHU already with  my writing voice, but I spent all of 2015 trying to find my writing style. It's been a long year of experimenting, changing styles, and working different genres, and I'm very excited to see that my efforts have paid off.

One last thing.

When writing is going to hell? Don't panic.
Find the root of the problem.
Keep on writing!