A Typical Day In The Life Of NaNoWriMo 2013

Last night I once again stared at a blank document, wondering how I could possibly write 1,667 words of a story that has no outline.

Last night I once again approached my NaNoWriMo writing at about 9:00, which is the absolute latest I can possibly start writing with any expectation of getting anything done. Once again I stared at a blank document, not even looking at the previous day’s writing, wondering how on earth I could possibly come up with 1,667 words to write of a story that has no outline. Not just 1,667 words either. I actually need slightly more than 2,000 words a day to catch up again.

Based on my enthusiasm level, my expectation each night is that I will sit with the blank page for a while thinking about how much I’d rather be doing something else, then I’ll write a couple of hundred terrible words, and then I’ll give up. "Well, I tried," I’ll think. "At least I got a few hundred words down."

That was a common scenario in the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo. (I fully recognize it to be an extremely lame effort at "trying.") Now, however, I can’t skip a day and realistically expect to make it up another day. Now I really have to write. Now there’s a deadline looming up ahead, ready to crush me beneath its iron fist. Now is when "real writers" must shrug off the surly bonds of indifference and trudge forward through the mud.

So I’m pulling out every trick I can think of. I typically start off writing something along the lines of, "I don’t want to write." I try to morph that into something related to the story. "Diana didn’t know what to do next." If that doesn’t work, I’ve invented a story demon who comes along and randomly interjects himself from time to time to inform the characters that they need to get moving, or do something dramatic, or resolve something. He also points out all of the plot holes and things that would never work. I’ve also inserted a wererat character from a totally different story idea to give soliloquies on the many ways that society treats him with disdain. My last trick was changing the tense of the story from past to present. I usually disdain present tense as a gimmick, but it actually felt much easier to write that way, so I kept it up with a tiny bit of enthusiasm.

Eventually I made it to around 1800 words before 10:00 and called it quits. I would guess that fully 75% of those words would get thrown out in even the mildest of revisions, which seems about average for this manuscript so far.

Here’s the real question. If I were really writing for a living, I’m not sure if I would call that writing session a success or not. Almost none of what I wrote was "commercially viable" in any way, so I did not get any closer to a finished novel. In that sense it was a total failure. But I did write, and by the end I had forgotten how much I wanted to do something else, so in that sense it was successful. I also did in fact learn that writing in present tense felt better than writing in past tense, so that was a positive development.

I guess I’m going to mark it down as a success, whether it actually was or not.

NaNoWriMo Mid-Month Update

I am all over the place with this year’s NaNoWriMo. Some days I write enough, some days I don’t. Overall I am behind, but not so far behind that it’s impossible to make it up. My heart is definitely not in it, though.

This story is bad. I mean, really, really bad. There is a kernel of a seed of an idea that I don’t think is too bad, but everything else around it is as bad as it can possibly get. And also the writing is bad.

For NaNoWriMo, it doesn’t matter if it’s bad or not, and with that attitude I have written plenty of words that are pure, self-indulgent comedy. However, as someone who is actually interested in writing for a living, I am struggling to come up practical lessons to learn from this, and what I can learn by continuing to write something that is obviously bad.

One unexpected writing lesson I have learned is that it is very difficult to write when your main character cannot physically react or move. My character is in a position where she is essentially trapped in someone else’s body, and can only view the world through their eyes. She has no sensory input other than vision, and she cannot express any emotions through typical physical reactions like tears, rapid breathing, blushing, hairs standing up on her arms, shaking fists at someone, punching them in the face, crossing her arms in exasperation, nothing. All she can do is speak. I had no idea how much of a challenge it was going to be to put someone in that position.

It brings up some interesting philosophical/physiological questions. Is it even possible to feel fear if your brain isn’t connected to a heart or lungs? The fight or flight response is extremely physical. Rapid breathing and rapid heartbeat make you better able to run away or punch somebody. Interesting to think about.

As for continuing to write, there is always the possibility that things could improve. I do believe there is a story in here somewhere, so perhaps that is all the motivation I need to keep throwing myself against a brick wall night after night. One day I might find the spark that pulls everything together, even if I only end up with a short story or novella.

NaNaWriMo First Weekend

NaNoWriMo is off to a mediocre start this year, as I am running about 900 words behind after the first weekend. Not too bad, really, considering what a collosal chore it has been to get writing.

NaNoWriMo is off to a mediocre start this year, as I am running about 900 words behind after the first weekend. Not too bad, really, considering what a collosal chore it has been to get writing. I feel like there’s a compelling story in this mess of text somewhere but I’m having a hard time getting to it. I am writing this year with zero preparation, by the way, other than some ideas jotted down so I wouldn’t forget them. Also, I’m not doing very well with my main goal of making myself laugh, because what I’m writing is not very funny so far.