Progress report: NaNoWriMo

My progress on NaNoWriMo has been less than I’d hoped. On Tuesday I didn’t write a word. I knew I should have tried, but I didn’t want to. I wasn’t happy with what I’d already written, and yesterday I ended up rewriting everything I’d written on Monday and half of what I’d written on Sunday. I’ll still count those words for NaNo, but they’re wrong and I’ve discarded them as far as the story is concerned.

I know I’m not meant to be going back and fixing things at this point. It’s a first draft, and I’ve just got to get it done, which means moving forwards and not backwards. But what I’d written had major problems. My character went from one mood to another too quickly, and didn’t find enough opposing her for there to be any tension, so I struck it out and had another shot. I’m happier with what I’ve got, but now I need to find a way to make the scene go the way I want it to.

I think part of the trouble here is diving in unprepared. I’ve got only the vaguest outline of what I want to happen, and this is leaving me with too much to work out when it actually comes to writing it. So I’m going to try pre-writing before each session – ten minutes just working out what happens next, what that leads to, how various characters react.

Part of it, too, is a confidence problem. My recent track record, both with writing in general and with NaNoWriMo, isn’t exactly brilliant. It’s a year since I last finished a story, and more than four years since I finished a first draft of anything longer than 4,000 words. This has a negative impact on my motivation and morale. The Finishing Something targets from months ago were meant to remedy this and the fact that they haven’t isn’t exactly encouraging.

Maybe I’m too focused on getting things right instead of getting them finished. I get stuck on a scene, decide the whole thing sucks, and give up. I guess what I need to do is put that idea behind me, focus on getting to the end of the first draft rather than creating a good first draft. I’ve seen a lot of good quotes to this effect recently – every first draft is perfect, because all it needs is to exist; you can be a bad writer as long as you’re a good editor; and so on. Intellectually, I understand this. The problem is changing the way I write to reflect this.

There’s an idea I’ve been toying around with in recent months. I’ve been so caught up in the idea of writing a novel and selling it, in working out the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing, in looking into cover design and editing and all the bits and bobs involved in the publishing side of things, that I’ve neglected the actual writing side of things. I’ve got ahead of myself. Meanwhile, I’m not producing work that’s even finished, let alone worthy of publication. I have this grand vision of myself as a writer, sitting in my library looking out at the Wrekin (in my hypothetical future home, built with the proceeds of my writing), and it’s never going to happen if I can’t even write worth a damn.

Next year, then, I want to focus on the writing side of things. I’ve got a few ideas about how I might approach that, but the goal is simply to write and edit and, well, finish something, and keep finishing things, without consideration of submission to magazines or publication whatsoever during 2014, but rather a focus on getting to the point where I am a far better writer that I am now, more confident in my abilities, more experienced with completing works, editing them, rewriting them, and polishing them.

And really, that plan starts now, with my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m going to finish it, edit it, rewrite as much of it as I need to, and then I’m going to set it aside and write something else and so the same thing, and then I’ll write another thing. And by the time I return to my current novel, maybe a year from now, maybe less, I’ll be able to make it better because I’ll be a better writer.

3 thoughts on “Progress report: NaNoWriMo

  1. I’m in the same foxhole, I’m afraid. I have ten (!) works in varying degrees of completion, and I’ve got covers prepared for most of them, and I know how I’m going to advertise them, and I know how the industry is going (this month) etc etc

    Have you considered a internet-sabbath?

    1. An internet sabbath? Are you mad? What would I do with all that time? How would I entertain myself? Where would I procrastinate for hours by reading discussions and blog posts about writing? And of course, how would I post my own blog posts?

      Though it couldn’t hurt to cut out the websites that take the largest chunks of my time, like Reddit.

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