20 November 2012

L is for Loser

I got this crazy idea this year... I had a new novel project that I was ready to start, and November was quickly approaching. Sounded like a great opportunity to try National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time.

I'll admit, I was a little worried about it because November is a crazy time for me with my day job in retail. I had recently been promoted to a full-time position, and that left precious little time and energy at the end of the day. Still, I thought, why not? It would be tough, but I could handle it. So I committed to it.

Then my manager quit. Which left me on my own and floundering at work for the first two weeks of the month, trying to do a job I was hardly trained to do, as well as the job she would have been doing (which I REALLY was not qualified to do). Lots of long days doing surprisingly physical work, plus a good amount of overtime sapped everything out of me. Stressed doesn't really cover my precarious mental state during those two weeks haha. Needless to say, I wrote very little.

There are still ten days left, but I'm calling it: I'm a NaNoWriMo loser. There will be no 50k words for me. But I wouldn't really call it a bust.

I did get a little more than 1700 words down the past couple weeks, and I still plan on attending my local area write-in on Friday to write some more. Those are all brand new words. I haven't written anything close to that in the past several months. I was mostly doing edits and revisions on old projects before starting NaNo.

My muse is also starting to whisper again. I know everyone says you can't be a slave to your muse, writer's block isn't a thing unless you let it be, you have to be disciplined about your writing, etc.... But that only goes so far for me. Maybe it's my nature as a pantster. But there has to be at least a little bit of inspiration, and that has been lacking of late. After getting some new words down on paper, though, that has been changing. Of course, some of the ideas my muse is whispering about aren't relevant to the project I want to be writing at this very second, but I'll deal with that.

I also got to meet up with some local writers. Even though I'm not going to win NaNo, I think I'll go to the last write-in because I've found that is a great motivator for me. It helped me to carve out a time and to prioritize my writing process. Having other people involved made it feel less like a selfish endeavor (because sometimes I feel that way, and that can discourage my writing process) and more like a group effort that I couldn't shy away from without letting other people down. It would be awesome if some of these local writers would like to continue meeting up even just once a month to have similar write-ins.

If I'm not in retail this time next year, I may give NaNo another try. We'll see. I'm not sure I'd win even under more favorable personal conditions unless I was really feeling inspired. I have no doubt about my ability to complete a novel. I've done it twice in my life already. For some, NaNo is an exercise in doing just that - finally sitting down and writing that novel you've always talked about. For me, it was more about focus. And I really wasn't able to focus on writing with my day job wreaking havoc. I have no idea how people with full time jobs and kids still manage to crank out novels the way some of them do. Props to them, because I couldn't do it.

If there's one thing I'm learning, it's that I simply do not belong to the don't get it right, get it done camp. Which isn't surprising, considering I don't operate that way in any other part of my personal or professional life, either. I'm a perfectionist, and I don't apologize for it. I'm sure some people may consider this blasphemy, but here it is: I don't believe in the shitty first draft.

That's not to say that my first drafts are perfect, because they aren't. It does take me longer than many other people I know to write my first drafts. But for the most part, I tend to spend less time revising than a lot of those same people do. I would much rather get it right (or as right as possible) the first time than to just get something down and spend a lot of time and effort making major revisions later. At work, I've had to do a lot more of getting it done, only to go back later to make it right than I would like and it has driven me absolutely nuts. I feel like I'm doing twice the work and it sucks. I refuse to approach my writing that way.

So if you're like me, and you can't quite get into the groove of churning out a quick and dirty draft that you can go back and edit to death later, don't worry. You aren't alone. I'll wear my L for NaNo Loser proudly. It'll take me a little longer, but I have no doubt that I'll be a winner in the end.

Are you doing NaNo this year? What has your experience been?