Wednesday, December 9, 2015

My NaNoWriMo Experience: Meeting Your Deadlines

I DID IT! Ended my first NaNoWriMo off with 50,702 words. Boo-yeah. I'm a badass. I know.

Me. All day. Every day. I love my life.
If you partook, I hope NaNoWriMo went just as awesome for you, but if you didn't make the count, don't worry about it! You did something amazing by putting your skills to the test and making an attempt to better yourself as a writer. If nothing else, that is what I took away from this experience. But would I ever subject myself to this again? Wellll...I've always got big, innocent anime eyes on the bright and shiny future, so I'm going to put that one down as a solid maybe.

Let me explain! Like I said, NaNoWriMo was a great experience for me, and anyone who is in love with this craft, I damn well near demand you give it (or something like it) a go. And here comes the big ol' "However". By the end of the challenge, my story and I were at each other's throats. Back in my "Notes" vlog-blog, I mentioned the whole "slumber party" between you and your story, but do any of you remember what happened when you stayed over at your buddy's house for three nights straight? Well, for me anyway, they weren't so much my buddy by the end. We were sick of each other, which down right sucks, because we had been such good friends. This is what happened here. 

With what little time we had, my story and I started squabbling over details. "This should be like this." "No, you psycho! That should be like that!" I had that constant churning in my gut I talked about in "Writer's Block Pt. 1" that something wasn't right, but I didn't have time to go back and fix it. The story I wanted it to be wasn't the story it turned out as, and I have to admit, this is a scary ass first for me. Usually, I take time to work with my story until we create something awesome we both agree on, but this writing exercise got me thinking of something I hadn't in a long while. How do you deal with deadlines in the real world of writing?

My history as a writer is mostly in journalism, plus the crazy college days as a scriptwriter. These have always been simple for me, and I had no problem pumping them out on time. Looking back on it, I think it was because these projects weren't personal, and when I faced NaNo with that mentality of "Pfft, I can do this in my sleep!" I slammed into the ugly wall of reality. A novel isn't like a project you're working on with a team or for an assignment. It is personal. A story comes straight from the heart and soul, and strangling it out of you will only produced this maimed and ugly blob. So when we get into the publishing world for novels, how do we deal with deadlines? To be honest, I have no idea. I haven't published any novels to give you a bulletproof technique (if there were one to be had) But here comes another big ol' "However". This is what I learned from NaNoWriMo, and this, I think, might help me in the future, and if your writing style is anything like mine, hell, maybe it'll help you, too.

I spent a lot of time analyzing what went wrong with my NaNo project, and the biggest thing that popped out was, I didn't let myself get hit with that "Eureka!" moment before I got started. In the past, I knew it was go time while scribbling down my initial ideas and hitting a point where I actually shout out "That's it! That's where the story begins!" But I couldn't do that this time. I had to fire the gun and go, and I didn't consider this as a big, red, warning sign, until I smacked into my first hurdle. That hurdle was this: Where the hell am I going? A lot of writers suggest you begin with the end, or begin with the middle to understand where the story's taking you. That's not how it goes for me. I have to know, and I mean know, the beginning, or else the rest of the story is lost to me. Sure it can and will twist and turn and change, and I'm cool with that, but if I don't have a strong root, I can't see this thing going anywhere but six feet under. So how should I deal with that? Before pitching an idea, I should take some serious time to figure out what I'm getting into. I'm still anything but a plotter, so I have no intentions of ever going to the dark si-I mean, plotting, but now I know that, while taking it slow is available to me, I will be slowing it down.

But once the idea is pitched (and approved) there is no slowing down, is there? This is where my heart gets thumping and palms sweating, because now I have to reach those dreaded word counts and deadlines. Numbers have always scared me, whereas words were my warm little blanket I could snuggle up in, so why don't I think in words? Not word counts. Words! This goes back to immersing ones' self in the story. Instead of telling myself "I need to get to this count by the end of this week", I ought to think "I need my characters to reach this point." Because of my writing style, that point is just a cloudy image in the distance. I don't know what's actually going to happen when I get there, but I'm going to fight through the mist to see it, and that's what's going to drive me. Just like the reader, I have a hypothesis of what's going to happen, and I want to see whether it does or not. If it does, cool, going onto the next hazy image. If not, freakin' awesome. I want to see what happens next!

Well, not that simple, right? What about writer's block? What about life getting in the way? What if I plum just ain't feeling it, or have that churning going on that I'm not going the right way, and need to back it up? Now, this is all based on myself, so I can't speak for you, but this is the situation my engine really gets burning. If something sets me back, I almost always hit that eureka moment, and then I can power drive to the next point. It's going back to thinking in points, not counts. If I absolutely have to get 10,000 words in, I'll get them in, but I'll use those words more like notes than actual, hard story, then I'll let myself use that as a skeleton to build meat on and move to the next point (if you're an artist, you know what I'm talking about)

But whether I'm doing this professionally or not, it's important to remember that this is the first draft. It isn't going to be anywhere near publishing level, and that's okay. Meeting these deadlines is going to be tough the first time around, but in my experience with journalism, script-writing, and the novels I've written for my own enjoyment (and am now sending out into the world!) later drafts aren't half as tough. That's yet another point I'm looking towards. This is hard now, but if I can just make it to that next point, I'll be that much closer to done. So take it one at a time, and as always, trust yourself and trust your story.

As for Arbor Down, not all is lost. Actually, we're still pretty damn good buddies, and I can see this project getting done in the future. Man, oh, man, if I could just tell you some of the awesome things that happen that still make my heart swell with love...well, point is, we might be pissed at each other now, but we'll get over it. But how about you guys? How are you and your stories getting along? What did you learn from NaNoWriMo, and what are your methods for reaching deadlines? Comment, e-mail, pigeon mail me, and call my 1-800 number. Come on and preach it, boy (girl), for all the world to know! Or just me, really. But whateves.

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