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Anatomy of a NaNoWriMo failure

November 21, 2011 7 comments

Last year, during the month of November, I participated in my first every NaNoWriMo. Basically, it is as it likes to claim, “thirty days of literary abandon”. During those thirty days of last November, I managed to write just over fifty thousand words of a novel that currently sits at just under one hundred thousand words. It will likely end up at around one hundred twenty thousand words. The experience was amazing. For almost an entire month, I felt like I was pumped up on writing adrenaline. By the time I was done, I hit my goal, and felt absolutely fantastic.

Now, fast forward a year. It’s NaNoWriMo 2011. The month preceding the craziness of NaNoWriMo, which should have been filled with excitement and anticipation, was instead consumed by indecision, anxiety, and dread. Up until the last minute, I’d not even decided which of the five story ideas I’d been tossing around I was going to choose for the November marathon. Not good, and definitely not good for boosting ones confidence before taking on such a monumental task. Unable to make a firm decision, I basically wimped out. Here’s how.

For NaNoWriMo, I decided to take an old story, for which I’d written about sixty thousand words, and add on another fifty thousand. The two together would probably have just about finished the book. While not what I’d originally wanted to do (I really wanted to write something from scratch), it was still something reasonable to attempt. I thought that having something already in progress would make it easier to jump in and start banging away at the keys. Makes sense, right? Au contraire.

It was bad enough I was already feeling disorganized and highly unprepared. After making the choice of what to write, I suddenly found myself buried neck deep in a story about which I’d done practically no thinking prior to November. And to top it all off the original work was written in a haphazard manner and contained several parts which were supposed to, when taken together, form a nice, unified whole. However, I discovered that I had discrete sections of a book for which no connections could be made, nor any semblance of a reasonable story that could take off from what I’d already written. It was a complete and total disaster.

I have since reluctantly given up on this year’s effort and resigned myself to using it as a perfect example of what not to do next year. I know now that I must take at least the month of October to think about what I want to write in November, and I need to make a final decision on a story prior to November 1st. I also need to have a solid outline (either mental or written) so that I can begin typing on November 1st without immediately becoming lost in a cloud of confusion (which I did this year).

So until November of 2012 and the next NaNoWriMo, I will return to the novel I started last year and I’ll continue working on tying together the pieces of the novel I was going to work on this year. With a little luck, by next year at this time, I could have two novels completed. Or, with not so much luck, I could still be buried in a literary quagmire. Let’s hope for the former.

–dp

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Categories: Writing