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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Monday, November 27, 2006

I'm not going to win NaNo

This has the ring of the familiar... every time I try to do NaNo, I get a little farther before I reach this point. I keep thinking that if I keep trying, one day I'll be able to extend it out until he end of November.

But I don't want to think that anymore. Before I get into this, I want everyone to realize that this monologue only only relates to how NaNo affects me personally. Most of my best writerly friends have participated in NaNo, and a surprising number have won it. I have nothing against it, except that I've reached the firm conclusion that, for me, it is a bad idea.

Now, it gets me writing, which is never a bad thing. I've done some good stuff this month, stuff I can be proud of. The problem for me is the word count requirements. If it were just ever so slightly less aggressive I could do it. But 1667 words a day is, for me, not only unmaintainable, but I find that it's damaging. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I refuse to take the quality of my writing below a certain point. Wouldn't you agree that the joy of putting semi-graceful sentences together is one of the best things about writing? When I write something that I know is bad and I know I'll have to weed out later... well, I feel like I need to take a shower. I also refuse to write long swaths of words that have nothing to do with the story and that I know will be deleted anyway. Call me lazy, but I don't want to do that much work.

So, here I am, after 25 days and 35,000 words into a story which I enjoy, and which I hope may turn into something.

I don't want to write anymore. I don't even want to think about it. I want to stick it in a drawer and never look at it again. I'm completely burned out. I don't blame the writing every day: I blame the aggressiveness of the goal. When I wrote Red Beret and the Paris memoir, I did them in 1,000-word chunks every night starting at 9 p.m. I was able to maintain this pace for 3-4 months in both cases. When I looked over the previous night's work, I was happy with what I had done and I was ready to do more. With this project I don't care if I never write another word.

And that, my friends, is not, or at least should not be, the culminating point of NaNo. You don't want to work on something for a month and then drop it like a Columbia House subscription. You don't want to see a good idea whiff right past you while you're too caught up in the numbers and word count to see where you're going wrong.

I'm still planning to participate. I like the community, I like the energy and the good vibes, and I like the fact that someone is holding me accountable (by someone I mean that little number counter thingy) to be productive and write every day. But this 50,000 word goal is for the birds. If it was 35,000 or even 40,000, I could support it. So with that in mind, I'm still going to participate, and either spot myself 10-15k words, or just decide that not winning is acceptable.

Here's an idea, one I've bandied about and received no support on: NaNoWriQuo - National Novel Writing Quarter.

In my experience and in talking to people, the habit doesn't fully sink in after a month. People get burned out like me and stop writing. Not only that, but 50,000 words is too few for a novel, for all but a couple of genres (it's certainly too short for fantasy-science fiction that most people seem to be writing, anyway). Why not take 90 days and write 90,000 words?

It's the idea that a little bit every day will keep you interested, keep you fresh, rather than the head-first deep-dive you get caught up in here. I mean, there's so much emphasis on so many words, and so many of the excerpts I read are such crap... can't we all just slow down a little bit and give ourselves a chance at building something of lasting quality?

Well, that's what I'll be doing anyway. I'm taking a week or two off to get back on track with reading (still have 3 books to go this year), then I'm going to start the real process of trying to write a novel. In my heart I'm still jazzed by L'Esprit s'en fuit, no matter what my tired mind is saying. I need to do research, I need to start to do some in-fill of plot details, and I need to rethink one of the major character arcs.

I still may report word count here, because it's kind of a nice thing to see as it goes along, slow and steady, just as it should...



Anonymous Corie said...

Um.... sign me up for your NaNoWriQuo please. :) You're still 20,000 ahead of me at least. As much fun as I'm having writing it, I do agree that for me, the 50,000 is unatatinable in a month. I can't silence that inner editor and wind up walking away when a scene comes off as rushed and incomplete and then I don't go back to it for a few days. So seriously, if you do this let me know, I'll participate.

Tue Nov 28, 08:12:00 AM  

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