So my second year doing NaNoWriMo is over, and again I fail to hit that 50,000 words. However, 32k is nothing to be sniffed at. The problem I’ve had though is mainly one of focus. Last year some pretty – unfortunate – circumstances led me to drop NaNo after 2 weeks, this time I held on until Week 3 before I had to shift my priorities. Even before work got in the way (I’m rather jealous of half of the other guys who are students and get most of the day to write) I still found myself floundering.
Imagine you have a cake. It’s a nice strawberry sponge cake and you want to write “Happy Birthday” on the top in frosting. So you get your frosting and begin writing on top of it. Before you know it you’ve run out of icing, and you realise that the entire cake is pretty much covered in frosting, and none of it resembles “Happy Birthday”, not only that, but you’ve not covered all of the cake, so there’s patches. So you get more frosting, fill in the gaps, and get another colour and begin again, only to find yourself in the same position you were in before. Only now the cake has two layers of frosting and is almost completely inedible to anyone but the sweetest of tooth. Indeed, this metaphor is begining to become the definition of itself.
This is the problem I had with NaNo, both this year and last year. I began writing with a clear goal in mind for my plot, but in getting to that goal I made it nigh on impossible to reach it. I ended up focusing on characters I had no intention of focusing on at the start, and neglecting my main character. I ended up with a slap-dash mush of random outbursts and alot of slapping, including one rather weaksauce ‘torture’ scene that I wish I’d never written – not because it was too graphic, indeed, it painted a weak character as I wanted it to, but it painted the strong character as, well, pathetic and unimaginative. The animosity I had built up between the two manifesting itself in something that was just wet and wimpy.
My main character had most of the focus in the first 1/4 of the book, but gave way to the, sadly, two more interesting characters involved in the aforementioned scene. I rolled with it at first, thinking it’ll be better when I edit it, throwing random plot tangents in there and whatnot. I then realised that when I edited this it’d turn into a 20,000 word short-story.
Not a bad thing perhaps, but slightly disheartening, especially when NaNo was fighting for my time between my work and my family. NaNo was never going to win on those fronts, but it began to be pushed out even more as time went on.
Will I try NaNo next year? Maybe. I’ve found that rushing for 50,000 words isn’t really my writing style. I’ll probably try again, on my own terms, in the new year. Maybe NaNo was a success after all.