Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The journey of NaNo

My husband and I have different writing journeys.

Not that I know this from actual experience. We've rarely read each other's stuff. Why? Because I'm intensely paranoid about my writing...that is, the stuff I DON'T put on the internet for anyone to stumble upon. He, apparently, is also paranoid. And he writes science fiction/fantasy, which is a genre I'm not terribly interested in, so I wouldn't have any feedback other than asking why his characters had such horrible names like Dramenod (I don't know that this is what his character names are since I haven't read anything he's written).

We were having a conversation this past weekend when I was lamenting that I don't quite know how my story was going to end. "Don't you know where you're going when you start?" he asked quizzically as if anyone who writes always has a well thought-out plan.

(I don't.)

"No, not really," I bite my lip nervously.

"I always know where the story is going to end before I start." He really doesn't sound holier than thou when he says this although it may come across that way. He's much more matter-of-fact about it.


I had outlined NaNo 2011 before I started. I had a path, and I worked backward methodically in order to set the stage for the ending. It was a pretty sweet deal how it all came together so well.  Almost like I should give up my day job and become a writer. No, not really (I like steady income and health insurance), but it went far better than I had expected it would go.

Several months ago I had an idea for NaNo 2012. But it was a very painful idea that brought up feelings of guilt and regret. Nothing really horrible, but I just didn't want to go there. I'm not ready yet. And that's okay. There's plenty more NaNos in the future, or I can just do it when I *am* ready.

That left me in a bit of a lurch when I realized my original 2012 idea wasn't going to work. When I was sleeping one night, an image came into my head - a crisp, Technicolor picture. And that was what I used for my opening scene, and it became the main fixture for the story. Dreams can be so helpful...and other things, but in this instance it was helpful.

When you base a book on a picture, the plot doesn't reveal itself right away. I had to understand the characters - absorb them, understand their motivations, their values, what makes them tick. That process took a long while, and I watched like any other reader as they slowly revealed the cards in their hands.

So, no, I didn't know how it was going to turn out. I had a potential lead when I started the journey, but decided that it didn't quite mesh with how the character had developed over the month when I got to starting to tie up the book on Sunday night. And so it went in a slightly different direction.

It's hard to judge if I'm happy how it turned out. When I go back and read the beginning, I think it reads stronger than I thought it was at the time. Toward the end, I started to get fatigued, and I think it slacks way off. But in editing I think it can be brought back.

All in all, I think NaNo is a wonderful exercise. It does take a lot of energy to do. Around the 15th of the month, I was just exhausted and couldn't really figure out why until I realized that I was spending hours a night after work thinking and writing and typing toward a mission.

Mission accomplished.

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