Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo Wrap 2015: My Grand Experiment


It's finally over.

NaNoWriMo is finally over.

That's a huge relief.

Like the huge pause button in my life that appeared during week two is finally released.

Every year I try to win NaNoWriMo and Week 2 is when it comes down the "Do or Do Not" decision. Can my dedication to this NaNoWriMo project beat out the pressures of daily life in order to get written? How much daily life am I willing to sacrifice to the alter of novel writing?

For the years where I win, 2012 and 2015, the answer is: all of it. TV, chores, friends, art, other novels, blogs, other thoughts, diet, exercise; they all got tossed on the pyre for the NaNoWriMo gods. And the further behind I got, the faster they got sacrificed.

And I was behind on most days. Finishing took a grandiose effort: over 13k words in a 24 hour period. Well, 16 hours, once you deduct my sleep. I lagged a lot in the middle, between 4pm and 8pm, because too many "You never going to finish" thoughts got in my brain. And I had the numbers to back it up.

Previously, the most I had written in an hour was about 800 words or so. The most I had written in one day was around 7k words. By yesterday evening, I'd already surpassed that but still had about 5k more words to write in 4 hours. My fingers were sore, my brain was wrung out, I was emotionally drained, and all that was left was this insistent voice telling me there was no I way I could possibly finish before midnight.

It's been said that I would argue with a tree stump. So despite the voice, despite the numbers, despite the facts, I argued. I said "Shut the hell up! I can do this, even if I haven't done it before. I will do it today."

Then, I did it.

That was a "Holy Fucking Shit" moment for sure.

My NaNoWriMo 2015 in graph form.
But finishing NaNoWriMo this year wasn't My Grand Experiment. My Grand Experiment was posting my raw, unrevised, unfinished, unstructured first draft online and telling people about it. Especially when this character was very close to me and I had no idea what I was doing.

When I say I had no what I idea what I was doing I mean that I'm a complete and total pantser. I had about one page of notes when I started on November first. It had stuff written on it like "Who is this chick?" "What does she want?" "What does she do?" "What happens to her?" And it had answers like "A chick who loves horror movies but gets startled easily" "She either works a min pay job or lives off a trust fund" "I don't know" Every single one of the 50,502 words I wrote last month popped into my head just before I wrote it. The only thing I knew about Veronica Granger was that her name started with a V (alternatively Vanessa or Victoria), she liked horror movies (like me), and she startled/scared easily (like me).

Those kind of prospects are terrifying. Add to it my horrible clumsy, poorly spelled, first draft writing, and you can see why posting it online was so scary.

At the same time, the idea of quitting and facing public shame, even if it was only imagined public shame, kept me writing. I didn't care what I wrote, how I wrote it, or anything else about the process EXCEPT I really wanted to try for chronological order, which wasn't as hard I as thought it would be.

Then, when I was hovering in the 30k range for so long, I really did think I would give up. I didn't like my story because it was more paranormal than horror, and my end . . . the only satisfactory ending I could think of was. . . so disgustingly cliche and disappointing. What was the point in my writing all of this for an entire month if I was just going to end up hating the whole project and didn't even have interest in a revision? But my accidental Thanksgiving break from posting gave me some breathing room to think about the ending, to choose a destination that was less disgusting and aim the whole wobbly mess to that end. So, I kept going and going, and going until I reached the 50K words.

The story isn't finished yet. I think I have at least 25k words until I get the last half of the book as fleshed as the first, so I'm not stopping the writing. I won't stop the posting either because everyone that's been reading along deserves to know what happens. Plus another one the goals of this 'post my first draft' experiment is to compare and contrast the first draft with a final published draft.

See, I feel like there is a lot of advice about how to get through a first draft. All first drafts are shit and it's meant for your eyes only and if you think about other people reading it you'll never get it done. As a result, writers as readers only get to see the finalized, polished, published pieces. Outside of workshops we don't get to see the process much. So I wanted to share with readers and writers as readers alike the difficult, hateful, but necessary first draft and a final draft, so they can understand the transformation, have more appreciation of the process, and for the writers, to not judge their own work so harshly.

So, I will keep posting parts of The Horrorphiles until I'm done with the first draft. Then, hopefully by December 2016, I will have a revised published version available, so everyone can see what really happened to Veronica or whatever her name ends up being.

In conclusion, I've really enjoyed this year's NaNoWriMo and My Grand Experiment. I'm considering making it an annual thing, both NaNoWriMo and the NaNoWriMo posting, and not just a sometimes thing when I'm stuck in a writing rut.

But holy fucking shit am I glad that NaNoWriMo pressure is off. Not that anything has changed. I still have a writing goal and I'm still writing and posting The Horrorphiles. But the great specter at the feast is gone. NANoWriMo is finally over. I can do other things now.