No NaNo For Me

Sunday, November 07, 2010
It didn't take me long to bail out on doing NaNoWriMo this year. Three days, as a matter of fact. Maybe four.

I started Monday evening with a burst of enthusiasm. I put my iPod in my Bose dock and started playing the movie soundtracks I'd downloaded over the weekend. It was easy for me to get more than 1667 words in under two hours.

Tuesday was a bit more difficult.

I'm a plotter by nature, spending weeks thinking about characters and plot points and subplots. I have a big black posterboard on my wall with index cards of characters attached to it. Oh, yeah, and the pitch sentence for my current WIP. For that novel, I'm using Scrivener and had my virtual index cards with scene titles all laid out before I wrote the first word. I'd also done character sketches in a notebook, bookmarked web sites with maps and pictures of settings, and clipped newspaper articles relating to the border problem that's a large part of the plot for that book.

And how much planning had I done for my NaNo novel? (Jeopardy theme here.) Zilch! I'd come up with a basic plot idea and a few characters and a "feeling" about what I wanted the book to be like. I often start this way. But (see above) I then spend at least a couple of months noodling this stuff around in my head, writing about it in my journal, poking around the Internet for background material.

But hey!, isn't No Plot, No Problem what NaNo's all about? So I pushed on Tuesday night, hoping to write my way into a story. I kept going, checking my word count every few minutes. When I reached a point where I'd written exactly 1667 words, I quit.

Wednesday I went to a meeting and was too tired afterwords to work on NaNoWriMo. I didn't panic. It was early in the month and weren't weekends for catching up?

Thursday I hit a wall. Every word was agony. After about 150 words, I sat back in my chair and thought about this. Why was I doing NaNo this year?

Because everybody else was. Well, not everybody, but a lot of people I know were doing it. In the back of my head I heard my father's voice. And if everybody jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too? Okay, so that wasn't a great reason.

It's fun! Actually, no, it wasn't. Not this year.

I started doing NaNoWriMo six years ago. I had already spent several years going from not writing at all to Morning Pages to writing classes to trying to write a novel. It was hard and I had a vicious inner editor, although I didn't know that was my problem at the time. NaNo gave me the freedom to write 50,000 words of crap, but to actually get something of length written. It freed me from that mandate to be perfect that my father had instilled in me. I was able to write, even if it wasn't very good.

Thursday night I realized that I've grown past the need to quash my inner editor. I don't need word wars or the Paper Bag of Destiny or plot bunnies to get me to write. And that spending the month of November writing a NaNo novel would be taking 30 days away from revisions of the novel I hope has some chance of actually being published.

I will forever be grateful to NaNoWriMo for helping me to get rid of that inner editor and allowing me to write shitty first drafts. And, if the stars align and some year in the future I have those character sketches and scenes titles and research web sites all ready to go on November 1st, I'll happily use NaNoWriMo to write the first draft of another novel.

But this year, no NaNo for me.

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A Clash of Kings
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