I was about five hundred words in yesterday when I realized that I was doing something terrible.
I was not beating a dead horse, which would have been a perfect analogy for last year’s novel.
I was doing something far worse -- I was torturing a child that I was hoping would grow up to be big and strong.
When I took the NaNoWriMo challenge last year, my primary objective was to win. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write 50K in 30 days. And I did.
However, a side effect of last year’s sprint is that I have zero interest in revisiting that story. There are elements that could probably be salvaged, improved, or repurposed, but it will likely be years before I have any desire to go through it. It’s not that the experience was negative -- it wasn’t -- it’s that it became writing for the sake of writing, and the story was sacrificed as a result.
Which brings me to yesterday. I realized, suddenly, that the last two to three thousand words were less a story and more internal exposition. I wasn’t writing a story -- I was writing down an explanation for the world. It wasn’t something that was being revealed subtly through the storyline -- it was blatant internal blathering.
Several days earlier, I had a breakthrough for the novel. This breakthrough was a realization of what kind of story I actually wanted to write. I then realized that the story I had been writing was woefully inadequate for this goal. What followed was sheer inertia.
I found excuses to do anything but work on the novel, though I thought “big picture” thoughts constantly. The world was crystallizing in my head, but the current execution was leaving an ever more bitter taste in my mouth.
What I had written wasn’t useless, but it was wrong. And the wrongness grated on me.
So, I had a choice. Continue pushing ahead without taking the time to reorganize my thoughts, without giving structure to the world and hoping that I can achieve something along the lines of what I think my story will be. Or, I could call it and give it the time to percolate.
You can probably guess that I’ve chosen the latter. I didn’t care about last year’s story, but I’m starting to fall for this one. I want to work on it, but not on this arbitrary schedule. I need time to dream about it, to put my thoughts on paper, to reorganize the world.
My story began, as it did last year, as a simple concept: “Wouldn’t it be neat if....”
This is a great way to begin a story, but if you don’t have any substance underneath, it becomes very dull. It ends up being like “In Time” -- a neat concept, but no real story. As I wrote, I discovered there were so many more stories to this world than I had originally conceived. There are dozens of characters I want to get to know. There’s a history that I want to dive into. There are layers that I was never expecting.
Most importantly, I’m excited about this world.
If the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to engage in writing, to reignite a flame, then I’ve succeeded.