Thursday, October 29

Why I Changed My Mind

Listening to: Kings of Convenience, "Power of Not Knowing"

Note: After I write this, I am fully prepared to go into hiding and save myself from the Evil Cabal of Evil Alter Egos, who are all going to KILL ME.

So, uh...I decided not to do NaNo.

Now wait, before you pile on...this is a decision made with much thought and consideration, and not a little regret. And I have pretty good reasons why it's just not for me, aside from last year's debacle (which actually turned out pretty well in the long run, at least I think, as I'm about to send the novel I messed up for NaNo last year out to CPs and I'm still pretty in love with it).

Let me put this out there: I love writing. I mean, duh. We know this.

And like a lot of writers, I get a lot out of the first-draft-period. That spectacular rush when the characters start becoming people, the euphoria when the story starts telling itself, the supreme satisfaction when everything just comes together. That feeling of being in the story, so deep inside it that it's all you can think of no matter what else you're doing. I love every second, and I revel in it. Sometimes I turn into a hyper little kid, when everything's going so well and the words are really flowing, and I bounce around in my seat and grin like an idiot and maybe dance around a bit.*

Now, let's talk about editing and revisions. I think I heard a few groans out there, seeping past the music playing on my headphones. I mean, at first when I'm revising, I'm kind of excited to fix all the things I know are wrong with the story, and there's the satisfaction of polishing my dirty, rough gem into, one hopes, a flawless diamond that will sparkle and shine and make people cry with its sheer beauty.

Ahem. Anyhow. That high wears off pretty quick, and then it's a long hard slog to the end.

So, as I've stumbled the last steps in the revision marathon these past few days, I've been thinking about all this and NaNo.

And I realized that NaNo compresses the part that I love, the part that turns me into a slightly tired ball of happiness and sunshine, and extends the part that turns me into a crotchety old lady who glares at little children and kicks puppies.** It takes away a month or two of writing and adds a month or two to editing.

As fun as the communal writing and the crazy rush to the end and the flurry of caffeine are, the writing itself is what really fulfills me. So why should I shorten that period (unless I'm on a deadline or something)? I should enjoy it. It goes fast enough as it is.

Now, a few things:

  • In my preparation for NaNo this past week or so, I've done a great deal of brainstorming. Character profiles, worldbuilding, backstory creation, all that fun stuff. Far more than I've done for any previous novel. In the process, my throwaway idea has turned into something that really excites me. Funny how that happens, huh? I also feel very prepared to write it. I'm probably going to stop short of outlining the plot, because my brain just recoils at that idea. Maybe I'll try, who knows. But I've gotten something wonderful out of just this week of preparing for an event I won't even be participating in.
  • I got my baby brother into NaNo's Young Writers Program. He's only ten, and he hasn't written much, so he's set a goal of 50 words/day. So even though I'm not really NaNoing myself, I'll be guiding a young soul through the process. And he's two years younger than when I wrote my first "novel", so I'll be helping one of my siblings beat the family record I set. And, you know, family bonding, sharing the love of writing, passing it on to the next generation, etc.
  • I WILL be writing. I'm still pretty much on schedule to start the new project on Sunday. I'll probably go pretty fast as the rush of a new novel sets in and as all the words piling up in my head this past week finally tumble onto the page. I just won't be setting an arbitrary word count goal.
  • The Husband, when I told him my reason for not NaNoing, said, "That's why I thought you shouldn't do it." I think he really just didn't want to deal with a wife who was pulling her hair out by the roots, screaming about tangled plot threads in the grocery store, or sitting in the corner muttering, "50,000 words, 50,000 words, 50,000 words." But whatever.
There you have it. Those are my reasons. I'll still be here on the sidelines, cheering all you brave folks on, encouraging you to OD on energy drinks, and laughing at the crazy. And everyone needs a cheerleader, right?

So, uh...please don't kill me?

*This may be more related to my innate dorkiness than my love of writing.

**Hyperbole alert. I don't do these things, even at the worst parts of revision. CALM DOWN, PEOPLE.


  1. I must not be doing this right...because I'm in no way freaking out about making the 50K total.

    Does that mean there's something wrong with me?

    (Don't answer that.)

  2. I will ignore the very tempting question and address the NaNo-related comment, Dan. I'm sure you're doing it right, and I wouldn't freak out about 50k as all my novels are more than that.

    But I didn't freak out about 50,000 last year. I freaked out (a little) when I found myself 5,000 words behind and terrified that I was ruining this wonderful idea I'd created because the plot had turned to absolute crap. It's not so much the word count or the's A. Going too fast to do justice to an idea; and B. Compressing the awesome part of writing into a short time span, thereby sucking some of the joy out of it.

  3. I don't think it's anything to stress over. They are just words. The last three years, or since I have started writing every day, NaNo seemed less like a big deal to me. I don't plan a new project and try to finish it like so many others. Instead, I pretend I'm a famous author and try to get closer to 2k words a day instead of my normal 1k for the book I'm already working on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I never stress about it. It's just for fun after all, yea?

    So no worries, it's more important to write every day, than to write a LOT every day!

  4. I back you entirely. In fact, I'm delighted to find an ally.

    I'm sure some people can write a good book in a huge rush of productivity. I can't. 3000 words a week is comfortable for me. 3000 words a week may not seem very fast, but slow and steady really works for me. It's about 34 weeks. Or about a year for a novel, counting the inevitable 25,000 word stall, which I no longer panic over.

    When I'm a full time writer (note the optimism), I'm sure I'll be able to be much more productive. But with my current responsibilities, writing must be done in my spare time. And I refuse to turn it into a source of stress.

  5. Exactly, Robert. I feel bad that I'm not going to be joining my friends in the craziness, but I've gotta do what's best for my writing. And writing every day--and enjoying it--is what's best for me!

    Yeah, Tia, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not one of those people, either. I fall somewhere between slow & steady and high output, and that depends on where I am in the story. So I'll just let the natural flow take over and enjoy the ride. And we can be non-NaNoers together!

  6. TC is going to have special exercises, prompts, etc. that can be used as part of NaNo, instead of NaNo, whatever. Probably on our NaNo board (via I'd like to do it but I don't have time to breathe much less write anything. But try & fail is always an option ;)

    You should enter "Dead of Winter" -- we announce the word count limit & topic on Sunday :)

  7. Oooh, Dead of Winter sounds good Stephanie...I might need to do a short project when my brain stem starts failing after the initial rush. You know, something to get the neurons going again. =)

  8. I haven't actually participated in NaNo in a while. Instead I use November to try and kick myself in the butt to be more productive with my writing. Usually it works great for me, and it's not nearly as overwhelming. Go with what works for you, I say. =o)

  9. I'm definitely planning on some heavy productivity, but that's normal when I start a new project. And yeah, I think NaNo can be super helpful, even for those of us who don't participate!


If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving