26 December 2012 - 12:14 pm

NaNoWriMo 2012 Part 3: the wrong project

For the past few years, I have worked on my web serial for at least most of my NaNoWriMo wordcount. It’s a good way to build up that buffer of posts that I miss out on for most of the year, and power on towards the end of a story arc, or even the story.

It’s not really what NaNo is for, and I have come to the conclusion that it’s not the best way for me to use that time.

NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about starting something new, about writing that project that you’ve been putting off, or haven’t got to yet, or just can’t find the time for. It’s about kick-starting your writing and galloping on until you’ve got 50,000 words. It’s about making time in your busy life for making stories.

I write regularly – every day, if I can. At least a post a week; sometimes more, depending on my energy levels and what projects are buzzing around in my head at any particular time. I have a routine, a habit.

Disrupting that routine to pump out enough words to meet NaNo targets is hard. It’s especially difficult when it’s the same project that I’ve been writing for months: I’m doing the same as I was before November; I’m just doing more of it. The same characters, the same story, but faster and more frantically. It’s not so much a change as a cranking-up of what’s already there. It’s difficult to really grip that November enthusiasm and run with it, and I struggle to get caught up in it the same way I used to.

NaNo is also supposed to be about turning off the internal editor and just writing. It’s freeing and wonderful for shaking off those wordy cobwebs. But when writing the web serial, I can’t switch off that editor. I can’t do all those things that NaNo encourages, like running off on a tangent or pausing to write up some exposition that’s useful for me but going to be cut before it’s published, or just chasing a plot down a rabbithole to see where it might take me.

I have to publish the web serial every week and that means I have to keep it on the straight-and-narrow. I have to write only what I intend to publish, or I suck up precious NaNo time editing them into shape – and wind up cutting many of those words that I so freely inserted. I don’t have time to explore wild tangents or ramble about a character’s childhood. I don’t want to break the good writing habits I’ve developed around my web serial writing, either. I have to write proper, publishable words.

On the plus side, I know that my 50,000 words are all useable and there’s little dross in there.

I miss the freedom of just writing for NaNo. I miss being able to throw words at a page just to see what happens. Sometimes, I feel like I’m missing some of the frenetic fun of the challenge.

In the last couple of NaNos, I have wound up switching away from my web serial to another project (the steampunk novel is coming along nicely as a result!). I get to a point where I know I just can’t continue writing anything useful, so I move on to something else. That’s the point that I’ve delved into something new, something different to what I normally write, and not something that’s going to be posted anywhere soon, so I have the freedom to let my editor sleep for a while.

That’s been more NaNo-ish for me. And I think that’s going to be my plan for next year.

Now, I’ll be clear: it’s not that I don’t like writing the web serial. I still love Starwalker, with all of its beautifully flawed characters and the plot that is careening towards the end of the story (it’s still a way off, but I have it in sight). I love writing it. But it’s just not working as a NaNo project for me any more.

That has been one of the biggest lessons I’m taking away from this year’s NaNo. Continuing with an existing, ongoing project isn’t good for me, so I need to shake it up. Next year, things will be different.

If I’m still web serial writing at that time (what will happen after Starwalker ends?? I have no idea), then I’ll have to put some effort in to build up a buffer to carry me through November. I’ll make sure that I’ve got something new all planned out and lined up (the robot brothel might be a good candidate).

And when the ball drops on NaNoWrimo 2013, I’ll start something fresh and different. I’ll let my editor off the leash and chase it out into the park. I’ll play in words like a kid in a ballpool.

Who knows, I might even get to the end of the story this time.

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  1. Francisco says:

    I empathise with you about not switching off the internal editor. It’s one of the reasons I realised that NaNoWriMo was not a good idea for me.

    January 8th, 2013 at 4:55 am

  2. Mel says:

    Always good to know what works for you! 🙂 I’d be tempted to take a break from NaNoWriMo if I wasn’t so deeply in love with every other part of it. Next time I just need to make sure I have something more freeing to write. 🙂

    January 8th, 2013 at 9:57 am