Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let's Begin with a Failure.

Once upon a time, (like Sept. 13th, 2010) I signed up for the NaNoWriMo Challenge. Having banged out a 350-pager in 10 weeks earlier this year, I really thought that is would be nothing.

Mistake number one: I was bored waiting for Nov. 1st.
~I decided to tinker around with an old story that needed a ground-up rewrite/overhaul. When the story involves some of your most favorite, most complex characters, that's not a good idea.

Mistake number two: not putting said story to the side on November 1st.
~I simply couldn't. In the course of 10 days, I was able to put together nearly 100 pages of story. And I was having fun! This was a chance to re-imagine the beginning of some my most pivotal characters.

Mistake number three: thinking that forcing out a story in 30 days no matter what was a good idea.
~I've been writing a really long time. Like, an insanely long time. My first "story" was written when I was 7 years old. It was 13 pages long called "Telephone Terror"* and that was beginning of the end. I know how I work. I can write a few stories at a time, and then one will leap to the forefront and it takes off in my mind. But it could have been sitting and fermenting for years, years, before I get to that point. As was the case with the story up ^ there. Thinking that I could sit down and force out 50,000 words, 175 pages in 30 days no matter what was absolute fallacy.

I did get 15,000 words out, about 40 pages in 10 days or so, when I hit that point. You know, that point where you just don't know what needs to happen next to get your main character where they need to be.

Now, the idea of NaNo is to plow through this point. Plow through your character flaws and plot holes. Just Write, is the motto here. It's tag line is "30 days and 30 nights of literary abandon" and they mean it. Write. Just keep pushing through.

The problem with this is, if you went to high school or college, all of sudden it starts to feel like a term paper. A big fat boring term paper. It's not *fun* or *creative* at this point. It's drudgery. It's washing the clothes. It's vacuuming the living room. It's not fun, it's something you have to do.

Writing, real writing that is inspired by the passion for the written word, for the story, for the characters, should not feel like you're washing your underthings. It should compel you to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, though I will never surrender my pen!) and create-- people, places, worlds, thoughts, deeds, stories, backgrounds, adventures, heartbreaks, births, deaths, and every little thing in between. In the back of your mind, no matter what you're doing, there's a little typewriter going, a Quick Quotes Quill**, jotting down ideas that flash through your brain through the day.

And word count? never matters. Whether you've written 100 words or 10,000 in a day, a week, doesn't matter to you. You're creating, you're not on a deadline. It's about the story. It's always about the story. Doing chores is something you have to do only because you don't want a thick layer of dust on yourself, or flies in the house. It's all about getting to that next chance to write and lose yourself in the world you're creating.

NaNo, while an admirable idea for those who have had "At the Speed of Love" in their head for years and want to get out, is not necessarily good for all writers. my story has gone back it's box. It will rest and relax and in the back of my brain, I will continue working on it. Perhaps next year I will be in the right place to finish. Or perhaps next decade. You just don't know.

I started with a failure. Is it really a failure, though? I may not have the pretty purple bar on my website, but I came away with something even more important: I understand my craft better. I understand my motivations and motivators. I know that writing to a deadline is a term paper; writing to write is a creative process. I can't force down on paper what isn't there, what isn't crafted.

That is worth more to me than any little purple "winner" bar anywhere.

*When I found a few years ago, it lived up to that moniker. *weeping*
**Quick Quotes Quill, dear blog reader. Prepare yourself for reference like this one.

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