You Owe It To The Story, Or: A NaNoWriMo About-Face

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareI did a complete about-face yesterday. You know how I was going to write Star Bright, the fourth book in the Septimus Series, for NaNoWriMo this year? Yeah, well, I don’t think I will.

To date, the story stands at about 12,000 words – that’s from Camp NaNoWriMo this spring, and about 3.5k words earlier this week. But I found that the going got really tough. NaNo lore has it that Week 2 is the worst week of NaNo, but I haven’t found that. The last few years I’ve found the first week the hardest. It’s like walking through molasses, like chewing on that tough piece of pizza crust that really doesn’t taste good any more – you get the idea. I just wasn’t enjoying it.

So there I was yesterday, staring at the 300 words I’d written that day, and really not wanting to carry on with it. That’s right, I didn’t want to – it felt like a chore. And that’s silly. NaNoWriMo a chore? That’s completely against the rules. Actually, this is NaNo – forget rules. It’s against the spirit of the thing.

And there was another thing. My good friend E. L. Bates just published a blog post on why she’s not doing NaNo this year, and there was one sentence in there that pinpointed exactly the issue I was having. She said that, among other things, we need to “be[] responsible to the story itself by not rushing it”.

And that’s exactly what is the case with Star Bright for me right now. I was feeling rushed, pressured to produce word count – and I was failing the story in that. I care about that story. This needs to turn out, it needs to be a good story. This is about Cat, and Guy, and the kids, and a couple of whole new characters called Jamie and Daarshan whom I’m becoming quite fond of, and if I rush their story, I’ll be doing them a disfavour.

So I’m not going to do word sprints and insert random instances of the word “piano” in the text (which was one of the fun games we played at a recent NaNo event), because there are no pianos in Ruph. I need to write Star Bright properly, take my time over it, without letting the spectre of a NaNo fail scare me into filling the page with drivel.

But I still want to do NaNo. I still want to participate in the madness of cranking out words, of commiserating with my fellow Wrimos on the difficulty of finding the next thing to write, of watching each others’ wordcounts rise (there’s nothing so thrilling as watching the progress of the little blue bar below your profile picture on the NaNo site – and when it suddenly turns purple, because you’ve passed the 50k mark, WHOOT!! There’s nothing like it!) and cheering each others’ heroic efforts.

Steve approves (that’s his approving face).

So you know what I did? I started from scratch. I opened up a new Scrivener file, named it “Nano ’15”, and started typing at random.

“The autumn mist hung thickly in the meadows by the river.”

That’s the beginning sentence. And off I went, producing more words in the space of an hour than I had in four or five before. I have no idea where this story is going – at the moment, it’s got no title, no plot, a whole bunch of mist in the river meadows, a protagonist (whose name I can’t even remember just now – the file’s not open), and a mysterious silver bracelet with interesting decorations on it.

I have no idea if I’ll finish NaNoWriMo with it this year – I’m already five days behind with my word count. But you know what? I’m excited about this story. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I have to keep writing to find out. It might, in fact, be complete drivel. It might have a piano in it somewhere, although I doubt it. It might never see the light of day in a published version. But for now, I’m going to enjoy myself writing it. And I’m going to leave Star Bright for a time when I can give it the attention it deserves – because I owe it to the story.

Life, the Universe, and a NaNoWriMo About-Face. Now what exactly is it about that silver bracelet?

12 thoughts on “You Owe It To The Story, Or: A NaNoWriMo About-Face”

  1. You did what I did! Although I restarted on Day 1, but I had 1,800 words written after midnight the night before. I was also trying to write something I cared a lot about, and putting the words down just didn’t feel right. I was rushing through it trying to get to the minimum word count for the day. I skipped a bunch of good details. When I sat down the next day, I didn’t want to do it anymore. So my chat buddies convinced me to just start fresh. And it is going so well for me so far! It’s no stress. Good luck!

    1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I’m actually quite excited to be pantsing a novel again – haven’t done that since my first Nano (2011). Whoot!

  2. I think it’s the year of the Novel Switch! My friend I’m Nano-ing with ditched hers after day 3 for a new one and I ditched mine today to go back to last year’s story and finish it. As my mom wrote to me twenty minutes ago, “If you’re not happy with it—who would be?”

  3. Hey, glad I could help clarify things for you! I recently finished a re-read of L’Engle’s Walking on Water, which went a long way toward affirming my belief that this gift of writing stories comes with a responsibility to not squander it and not treat it lightly – not to be pompous and arrogant about it, but humbly acknowledge that these stories have a reason to be written, and therefore should be written to the very best of our ability.

    Which, darn it, DOES sound pompous, but oh well.

    1. I still have to get a hold of that book. I’m just reading one called “The Art of Slow Writing”, which talks about similar things – in fact, was possibly part of the impetus for this.
      So, yeah, thanks! 🙂

  4. That’s the great thing about NaNo; no rules! Not feeling it, switch it up! I was tempted last year to do that, but my fatal flaw is pride (or as my mother calls it- stubbornness) so I pushed myself through. I’m much happy with my choice for this year- it’s a story I care about. Hope you kick NaNo butt!

    1. I have that pride thing, too – but you can also call it determination, stick-to-it-iveness, or whatever other positive labels you might want to give it. I’ve had the walking-through-molasses effect before, and I’ve pushed through it each time – but this time, it’s different. We’ll see where it goes!

  5. And sometimes it’s good to write what you’re not happy with–because that needs to be written too, if only to be set aside. It’s like shoveling the snow out of the driveway in winter–it’s an inevitability, just as winter is. Besides, you might go back to the writing you didn’t like and find a couple of gems hiding among the “drivel.” Lol. Emily Dickinson scrawled some of her most beloved poetry on the back of old receipts and scraps of paper and stuffed them into a junk drawer in her bedroom…just saying.

    1. Yes, of course – that’s Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” principle. You can’t edit what you haven’t written.
      But it also depends on *why* you’re not happy with it, and in this case, I hated rushing this story. The new one, I can rush away; it doesn’t matter where it goes. If there’s gems in the drivel at the end, so much the better; if not, that’s fine too.

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