I am not going to finish NaNoWriMo this year. I knew it tonight before I even sat down to write, I think, because all I was doing as I popped my can of Monster at 11pm was dreading the task before me. I could barely bring myself to open the file that contains the second installment of The Eternals story that I began in April, the one that I thought might have the chance of someday seeing the light. And maybe it will, maybe. Maybe with a lot of close looks and fine tuning and all around hard work it might be able to be salvaged into something that someone might want to read someday. Maybe. But taking it on as my NaNo project after I had already abandoned my first (and completely laid out) idea, was just asinine. I guess I went into this with too much confidence and not enough determination to finish, to just write with no plot and no problem. Because, see, I have a plot, and a problem.
Months ago, I gave a stack of papers to Dan and asked him to read what I had been working on for almost two years. It was the story that I had started two NaNoWriMos ago, and technically I won that NaNo because the manuscript, though no where close to being finished, was over 50,000 words. Before giving it to Dan I had re-written a lot of it, fine tuned it and made it better, but the bare bones were there and it was something I was proud of.
Now, I don’t know why I gave it to Dan. I guess because he is the first person in a long time who has ever seemed genuinely interested in reading something I have worked on, and not just because he wanted to read it, but because he could offer opinions and insight that went deeper than a casual reader. I had faith then, that in giving him the beginnings of that first draft, I would be given back a wealth of feedback that would do wonders for me.
I don’t know what I was thinking.
Dan understood that he wasn’t, under any circumstances, allowed to talk to me about it until December. I didn’t want to get distracted by thoughts of the story where my heart is and be led astray from NaNo, but that’s just what happened anyway. When I was writing about the teenagers in the haunted house, and again when I was revisiting Leila and her band of Givers who’d escaped from the vampires that were exploiting them, my mind was with Nora on Spring Street the entire time. (I know this won’t make sense to anyone now, but hopefully someday it will.)
And then, a couple of days ago, I was literally struck dumb with fear. I was afraid that December would come, and Dan would start talking to me about Nora and Spring Street, and that his words would influence me in ways I couldn’t control. I know for a fact that that is exactly what will happen. I know for a fact now that giving him that stack of papers was like giving him my heart and asking him to rip it to shreds, and now all I want to do is turn back time and snatch it away from him and take back my words.
But I can’t take it back. I can’t make him un-read what he’s already read and made notes on. The only thing I can do is tell him not to talk to me about it – and keep writing.
So that’s what I did tonight, once I’d diagnosed the thing that had been keeping me from JUST WRITING for NaNoWriMo. I went back to Spring Street, and I had a fucking blast.
It’s been probably two months since I’ve written about Nora, and picking up where I left off, at the edge of the cliff where I had left my heroine, felt literally like coming home to a warm house after being locked out in the cold. I don’t think I have any choice now but to see this story through to its bitter end, writing challenges be damned.
I’m not going to lie. I’m disappointed in myself, much more disappointed in myself than anyone else will be with me for not finishing NaNo this year when I was so psyched up and confident that I could do it again – that makes it two wins and two losses in a row. But really, is this a loss? I got almost 13,000 words into a brand new story that totally has potential, and over 10,000 words into a sequel that might not make it past Google Docs, but is certainly an indication that the Eternals have some life in them yet. That is not a total loss, not at all. But what have I gained? Well, let’s see what I’ve learned so far this month:
- I am a pantser, not a plotter. Plotting the Brigham House story, though it seemed like a wonderful idea at the time, killed it before it was out of the gate. I was bored writing it, because I already knew what was going to happen – or rather, I wasn’t letting myself find out what could happen when my fingers take over for my brain.
- There’s a time and a place for everything. Eventually I WILL finish the Eternals series. Although the first book was utter crap, I was passionate about it while I was writing it, I had an absolute blast writing it, and I know that underneath all the crap there is the skeleton of a great story and even greater characters that just need a little more tender loving care to make mommy proud of them. But this wasn’t the time to revisit them, not under pressure. I couldn’t do Leila and the Givers justice during NaNo, and I’m pretty sorry that I tried.
- Write with the door closed. It’s Stephen King’s advice. I should know, I’m finishing up his memoir, On Writing, just tonight between writing breaks. Write with the door closed and edit with the door open, that’s what he says, and it’s what I DIDN’T do when I gave Dan the beginning of my manuscript. I was opening my door to him, when I know now I should have checked my ego on the right side of the closed door and kept the damn thing to myself until it was finished. Pride does me no good when things are left open ended.
- You have to trust yourself, and then forgive yourself. I went into this November with way too much confidence. I ‘trusted myself’ to the point of being cocky, I see that now, but I had good intentions. Regardless of the message boards, the forums, the Facebook groups and the precious few friends who act as cheerleaders, writing is a lonely fucking business, and if you can’t trust yourself and have faith in yourself that you aren’t doing it all for nothing, well, I can’t imagine where I would be. But then, you fail. You fail and you fail and keep failing, and then there is no choice but to forgive yourself, or else you might not go on. You might not pick up that pen again, or open up that document again. You might open the door and walk out and never look back. But I’m not that girl.
NaNo ’11 was a total bust for me, but I can’t say I’m all THAT surprised or disappointed. You win some, you lose some, and then, with time’s unflagging forward stride, November comes again. But look at this, where are we? Day 19??? I have eleven days left, and then I will have done something I’ve NEVER done before and always wanted to – I’ll have blogged every day for a month. I never quite understood how I could write a novel in a month THREE TIMES and never manage to post once a day, but this.. not only do I think I can finish NaBloPoMo, I don’t think I want to stop there. On my Mighty Life List, blogging every day for a year is #68. I’m already nineteen days in, it’s the longest stretch I’ve ever had, so why stop now?