Friday, November 29, 2013

Finishing NaNoWriMo 2013, or "What I've Learned From Last Time"

Last year, this time, I was a touch over a week done with NaNoWriMo. I hit the 50,000 word mark with relative and quick ease, and then quickly and unceremoniously wrote the rest of the book.

I loved the experience of NaNoWriMo and winning for the first time. As for the book, I didn't love it. I didn't even really like it, though I certainly didn't hate it. I let the book just sit there. While I like some of the ideas in it, I'm not sure I wrote a book that I could muster any real passion for. I wrote it partially as a joke, mostly to make fun of Twilight and vampire fiction in general.

But, anymore, that's like kicking a dead horse. And, while many of us still mock Twilight for all of its problems, the relevance of doing so has diminished a lot. That book will probably never see the editor's eye, much less the light of day.

Heading into November, this time, I wanted to approach with a subject that I would stay passionate about. About a week before NaNo began, I completely abandoned that and decided to base the book around a woman I know in real life, who angered me. You see, this woman is into her 40's, but still acts like a high school student. She is manipulative, insecure, says bad things about people behind her back, and butts into business that is not her own.

I created a character that was loosely inspired by this woman. I should have known that it would lead to problems.

The first three days of November also coincided with the National Film Challenge. So, day one, before we got the info we needed to make our short film, I pumped out as many words as I possibly could. It was a decent enough start.

After the film challenge, I put all my focus on the book. Tentatively titled "The Tastemaker", I hit 16,000 words after a week, and felt like I was in cruise control. But then, I hit a wall. Not the dreaded Week 2 wall that so many run into during NaNoWriMo.

This was a wall of apathy, but I ran into it far earlier than I did with the vampire novel. At least with the vampire novel, I could keep writing based on injecting action scenes whenever things slowed down.

But with "Tastemaker", a light-hearted and sweet rom-com type story, I was out of my element. My stories are usually bleak, dark, and filled with bad things happening to already damaged people. "Tastemaker" was about two people trying to find love against the machinations of a nosy shrew. Simple. Not bleak. Was actually kind of sweet.

Not something I generally write.

So, at 16k words in, I had a decision to make. Continue writing a story that was rapidly degenerating into a petty reflection of my feelings towards a real life individual, or cut my losses and try to catch up with a different?

Many people told me to keep the word count from the previous story. Just add it to whatever new novel I started.

I couldn't do that. If I was going to start over, I was going to really start over.

And so, reaching into notes of various characters that I created in the past but have never had a story they could call home, I began writing my new novel. And instead of hitting the ground running and burning through word count and material quickly and viciously, I kept a far steadier pace.

Last year was about power writing. This year was about methodical, even-handed writing where I made consciously important decisions for the book before writing. Through all of that, even with being a week behind, I managed to win NaNoWriMo. What's more, the book has a lot of material still left to cover. All I can say about that is that I'm in love with the book more than I ever could be with Tastemaker or the vampire story.

And I think I'm becoming a writer who prefers method to speed. Even with my slower approach, I was pumping out 2,000 words a day, on average, with many days coming in far more. But every word felt better. Every sentence was far more lovingly crafted than either of the other two books. Yes, I will still need to do revisions on this novel, but everything was so much better and so much more thought out.

I think this will be my new writing style. Even where I found problems in the narrative, I was finding them while writing, as opposed to figuring it out after. I immediately knew, being so in touch with both story and character, what I would fix on my second, third, and fourth passes on the novel. It's helped me with my fear of future drafts.

This NaNoWriMo was far better than last year's. Not only did I still finish when I had to start over, but I also found myself passionate about this project.

Another lesson here; for the sake of the legal system and your sanity, only ever take traits from people in your life when writing. Don't try to model a fictional character after a real person with the intent of writing revenge fiction. It's unsatisfying and ultimately petty. And is a quick way to ruin your story.

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