NaNoWriMo has always been a bright spot in my year, even as it’s a challenge. It forces me to write as often as I’m able, which I sometimes don’t have the brainpower or time to do. I have to manage my time better in November, to ensure I have the time to write. I’ve gotten a lot better at scheduling and strategy in the last year, which has helped enormously on that front, and I’m happy to report that I’ve written every single day this year (so far). With an exception or two, almost every day, I’ve gone over the 1667 recommended word count. Not far over, but enough to make myself proud.
Still, I’ve found myself losing steam a lot this year. I had one great, 3500-word day, but though I’ve written every day, I’ve found myself more wrapped up in the word count than in exploring—and progressing—the story. This year has become more of a contest than others, as I fight to meet the target goal, and then defeat it. I’ve used the goals and markers as signposts in the past, helpful to keep me from getting lost, but not entirely important. But I want those green bars and check marks this year, even more than I want to know what will happen on the next page.
I fell in love with this story idea when I first formulated it, however long ago that was, and I loved sketching out the plot and character backgrounds. Yet I keep finding myself hitting a wall. I make word count, but I feel like I’m writing in circles, spending far too long on too short of a time frame, and not moving the plot forward after thousands of words and hours of work. I’ve realized I’m far more interested in hitting the word goals—and then some—every day and getting to the 50k mark early than I really am in the story. There are some scenes that spark my interest again and I feel like I’m really drafting something great. But there are far more that feel like a slog. Worse, they feel pointless. I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I thought I understood these characters, but I feel so strongly this year that I really don’t know them at all. I lose their voices and I don’t know what they really want. More often than not over the last twelve days, I’ve found myself not knowing how to get them back on track.
I know this will be a story that needs extensive editing after November. I’m an editor by profession; I understand that every draft could use a second look. I’m not afraid to look back at this story, should it be complete on December 1, the same as I’ve never been afraid to look back at anything else I’ve written. What scares me is that I’ve somehow missed the mark, and I’ll have to start over from square one at another time. I drafted a prologue for this story over the summer, because I just needed to get the idea down, and I was so thrilled to have it written. Between then and now, I lost that thrill.
I’d love to be published someday, but that doesn’t even entirely matter to me. I embark on this insane journey every November just thrilled to get to spend time with the characters I created and the twists and turns I cooked up in the preceding weeks and months. I love having put these ideas down and, in some small way, brought them to life.
But what if I’m wasting 30 days this year on an idea that isn’t supposed to be written right now? It felt right at the start. Plotting went well; the playlist is still inspirational. Still, I’m finding every excuse to avoid writing. I write every morning on my commute, but more so out of habit than any real need. I’ve had bad years, and years I tried but didn’t win, but those were always external forces—travel, school, work. A lack of time, in short. I’ve never felt this kind of lack of drive. That’s what’s scary, too. Why don’t I care about this story? What isn’t working? I know those are the kinds of questions to ask during the editorial process, but I can’t help but wonder now.
I’ve procrastinated enough for today. I have 1000 more words to hit the target word count. Maybe I can push through to something more eye-catching. I’ll see you all at the finish line.
Self-doubt settles into the heart of one WriMo writer. Can she thaw her icy heart and save her characters from certain ruin? Tune in next time.