Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Grim Stench of Failure

In 26 minutes it will be November 29. Two days after that it will be December 1, bringing the 2007 edition of National Novel Writing Month to an end. At a current word count of 21,224, I will not be making the deadline. Not to say it's impossible to make 15,000 words a day but well, I have a life.

I have a hard time determining how I feel about this. I wanted to make 50K, and if I had been a little more disciplined, I know I could have easily made it. But after a hot start, the plot ran out of steam for a minute and I lost my confidence, unsure I had enough story to make it to 50K in the first place. But I still need to finish the story, and Lady Trail has suggested if I need a deadline so bad to focus on Christmas to get the first draft finished, forget word counts, just get it done. She's supportive that way.

Still, Nano's taught me a couple valuable lessons on how I approach writing.

1. If you don't care about quality, 30 days is more than enough time. If you do care, it's barely enough time, but you need to throw yourself at it completely. I appear to be the sort to sketch out a scene for pages upon pages before actually writing the thing. It's just what works for me.

2. I need to write it in longhand first. This is certainly part of what doomed me from a time management perspective. I despise going cold from my head straight onto a computer screen. When I don't consider it to matter [ie, my first attempt in '04, most of these blog posts, teheh], then there's no problem. But when I'm writing creatively, I need that organic friction of the pen on the paper. Typing up what I had already written in longhand ate away hours of valuable, focused writing time.

3. Writing for me is solitary. I went into this event thinking how cool it would be to have a support group of like minded people in it with me; that got stomped quick. I crashed one meeting this year at the Toronto reference library. I got there early, and decided to hang out until the scheduled time, to see if I could spot the motley crew of would-be novelists. They weren't hard to spot, we'll leave it at that. Then they all packed around a table in the lobby and begin chattering amongst themselves. When a new [female] attendee arrived the coordinator would shuffle over and give them an awkward, church youth group style embrace. Too much talking, not enough writing. While I appreciate if that works for them, it does not work for me. I don't want to talk, I don't want to socialize; I want to get down whatever the hell it is I want to get down. Since I won't like it anyway, I'm automatically in a foul mood as it is, and even less suitable for human interaction. So it really is better for everyone if I just sit in a corner by myself.

So that was my journey. To all my colleagues who were on it as well, I hope you had better luck than I did, and even if you didn't, I hope you continue on anyway. Talk to me in December, maybe I'll have something worth showing.


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