Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Caution, Navel Gazing Ahead: NaNoWriMo Reflections

So I won.

For the second November in a row, I got achy muscles from dragging my laptop everywhere, spent way too much money at Starbucks and Borders (the latter's spinach omelet sandwiches are like crack.  Delicious, eggy crack), listened to sixties and seventies rock almost exclusively, and cranked out prose that was, more often than not, total and utter shit.

And 65,000 words later, I emerged with a first draft.

If you've read this blog in the past month, you know about my involvement in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and my NaNoWriRant against certain writers who think people such as I are deluded chumps.

However, when I started writing, I WAS, in fact, somewhat of a deluded chump.  I really, really wondered why the manuscript I rewrote TWO WHOLE TIMES wasn't, in fact, getting me an agent.  I totally thought I was better than most YA writers out there, more original, funnier.

Then I started taking classes and going to workshops and applying for residencies.  In doing all this, I learned that not only are there a plethora of highly gifted folks out there, most of them worked way harder than I to perfect their craft.

I learned to identify my own issues with plotting, character development, just plain ideas.  I learned to listen to critiques--even if I didn't always agree, there was usually something in there that was helpful.  I learned that in classroom exercises, I should stop trying to impress everyone and just. freaking. WRITE.

It was during one of these freewriting prompts that I got an idea.  An idea that became last year's NaNo.  My third full manuscript, and the first one that I honestly believe has potential (and before you call me "deluded chump," I've had other non-family members say it too).  One year, one writing residency, and a gazillion revisions later, I'm STILL working on the damn thing.  My inner editor is a total bitch now.  And she's not letting me send it out till it shines like the top of the Chrysler building.

But a few months ago, things shifted.

I went through a dark period.  I was constantly sad, angry and stressed.  Things I used to really enjoy--like dance class--started losing their meaning to me, and consequently I stopped going as often.  My writing slipped by the wayside, too.  I felt like I had no capacity for creativity left, not to mention I was bereft of energy.  And when I wasn't writing, I was beating myself up for not writing.

In fact, despite the fact that I had a story I'd been jotting notes for since February (when I wasn't revising my latest project), I almost didn't do NaNo this year.

Then I thought about it.  I needed to get back in the habit of just sitting down and writing.  And this story was calling to me.  Even if I never, ever visited the project again, I had two protagonists talking to me and I wanted to get all of it down on paper.

And I did.

Mind you, November was a big month.  I signed up for another burlesque class, started going to yoga more often.  I have a full-time-plus job.  Mid-month, my best friend Bob moved back from L.A.--a wonderful, emotional experience for me--and crashed on my couch for a couple of weeks while getting his Chicago life together.  I even found time to blog and write film reviews once in a while.

But every day (almost, I think I took a break on Thanksgiving), I sat down and wrote.  And most of it's awful.  There are plot holes, characters who disappear, and inconsistencies galore.  In fact, if and when I revise this thing, I already have a list of stuff that needs to be fixed, which I'm positive is just scratching the surface.

I sat down and wrote.  I got back in the habit, refreshing me for the long process of edits ahead as I rewrite my work in progress for the umpteenth time.

I remembered that writing makes me happy.  Yes, I want to get published.  It scares me how much I want it.  But it's not about that.  It can't be.  I have friends who are published authors struggling to sell their next book.  And brilliant agented YA writers like Natalie Whipple struggle with submission as well.  I can't write to publish.  If it happens, great.  But most of all, writing makes me happy and that's why I do it.  Simplistic?  Yeah.  But totally true.

Now I have two stories I believe in.  And the two manuscripts I wrote before--though I'll never show them to anyone probably--are special to me, because they helped teach me how to write.

My astute and tough-lovey pal Xander Bennett of Screenwriting Tips . . . You Hack said once that the point of a first draft is to exist.  And now my first draft of Satellite exists.  Yay.  Awesome.

But while I'm celebrating, I'm thinking about how to tweak my work in progress, The Kids Don't Stand a Chance, so it's infinitely more readable and doesn't suck.  After spending November telling a completely different story, I'm refreshed and psyched to revise, revise, revise.

Hi, writing!

It's good to be back in the saddle again.


  1. Congratulations on completing your manuscript! I'm impressed that you did Nanowrimo twice, especially since I haven't even done it once. I wish that I could, but November is such a busy month during the school year.

  2. I did NaNo this year because of you and I loved it! And I won too! And hey, my manuscript is pretty crap right now too. But that's what revisions are for.

  3. I've tried to leave this comment TWO times, but sometimes when I leave a comment from my mobile, it just doesn't take. Grr..

    Anyway. The thing I love about nano is that it's something different for each person. You did it because you want to get published and needed it to get out of a rut. I did it because writing is my hobby, though I'm not very good at it, but I have so little time for my favorite hobby anymore (with the exception of increasingly slap-dash blog posts!) that I NEEDED this to light a fire under my tush to get me to just sit down and write. I won, though my first draft is still about 50 or so pages from being completed. I love that you say the point of a first draft is to exist. Because mine does now! And it sucks, but I just might decide to do a little rewriting and revision one day.