Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNo Killed My Story

Not really. My story is dead, but I don't think I can blame NaNo completely. I came to a realization over the weekend, while I was contemplating writing 12,500 more words this week, that perhaps this writing style just doesn't work for me. The breakneck pace made me dread writing, and my writing time is supposed to be fun (it's my outlet).

Writing-dread combined with my need to plan ahead and my outline that failed miserably (more about this in a later post), made me doubt my sanity in continuing on the NaNo journey. My daughter came down with the flu today (don't worry, it's the pukey kind--not the swine flu), my house is in shambles, and I have an new story idea that doesn't make me cringe when I think about writing it.

So this is the deal: I am not quitting, I am shifting my focus from one project to another, and I'm loosening my self-inflicted word count requirements so I can write less now and more when I have healthy children and a moderately clean house. I'm still going to shoot for 50,000 words this month (I'm at 13,000 now), but I'm not going to feel bad if life gets in the way and I only get 13,500.

Last week was interesting. I think I could continue writing at that pace if I had a project I believed in, but this one just wasn't it. It's possible that it will be "the one" in the future, but not right now. So, I'll chalk this little adventure up as an enlightening experiment and move on to bigger and better things. To all you NaNoers who are still going strong with your original projects: I salute you. May your stories be wonderful, and may all your wildest dreams come true. To the rest of you: I'm sure your sanity is in better shape than mine.

Have you ever quit a manuscript ten thousand words in? Have you ever gone back and made it fun again? (Please say yes!)

44 comments:

Erica said...

I have quit one before. I was about 20,000 words in and it was total crap! I do have one that is shelved that I will go back to.

By reading the blogs around the web, I'm seeing NaNo brings out a lot in someone. Some look at it as a challenge to be won, some have higher word counts as their goals, some have it organized down to each scene. Just depends.

I'm enjoying it, but there are days I don't want to write that much. I could stand with writing 1000 words or so and be happy. It does get me into the habit of writing every day, and for me, that's a good thing!

I think it should be fun and if you're not having that, then it's good that you are switching to an idea that makes you excited :)

So sorry about your daughter- I've caught something too, don't think it's the swine flu either, but I'm going to the Dr. tomorrow to make sure.

Every story can be made fun- just add a crazy twist or two, or a wacky character!

Good Luck :)

Wendy Sparrow said...

Yes, I quit a story to write another story at about that spot. I went back about two and a half months later, and I was shocked that I'd quit. It was more than just fun again... it was awesome. I'd done a ton of research that I'd stored, and I think researching the heck out of the subject--killed my enthusiasm for it. After I'd forgotten the long hours of research and I could just come back and reap the rewards--it was easy and fun.

So, yep... sometimes, setting it aside works out to a happy ending later on.

Anissa said...

I had the exact same experience with NaNo a couple years ago. Exactly the same. I never did go back to that idea. Never even opened the file again. Writing is my outlet as well. First drafts are my joy. Discovering the story, for me, is the best part. I hated rushing it, and I hated the result. I hope you find your joy again. And I hope the little ones are feeling better soon. Happy stress-free November!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I've had several collaborative writing projects that died thousands of words in. It's painful, but I still think of it as a learning experience. And I have resurrected a couple of them, including the novel I recently finished.

Let your NaNo novel gather some dust, but write what you're passionate about.

And I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's flu. That's the worst! But you might get some extra cuddles out of the deal- that's the only time my daughter will sit still long enough for me to snuggle with her.

Susan R. Mills said...

You are the second person who I heard about quiting their NaNo project because they weren't in love with it. Good for you. And for the record, I just pulled out a project I started in the summer that I let fall to the side, and I expected to laugh. You know what, it's good, and I plan on going back to it as soon as I'm done on my current WIP revisions. I'm sure you'll love your NaNo story at some point, but no need to push it when you don't. Hope everyone in your house gets well soon.

Abby Annis said...

I've been feeling that same frustration with my NaNo project, but I think I've found a way around it. We'll see. :)

I've never given up on a project before, but this is only my third project, and the last one has only been shelved temporarily, waiting for the first one to venture out into the world. My NaNo project has actually made me kind of anxious to get back to that one.

Good luck with your new project, and I hope your little one's feeling better soon. :)

Patti said...

Great attitude. I don't anyone should keep writing what they don't believe in just for the sake of NaNo.

Like you said, writing is suppose to be fun and if you're not having fun, what's the point.

Good luck with your new project and don't stress about the word count.

Tabitha Bird said...

I applaud your choice. You go girl. Redirection is very important :)) It sounds like you know when to redirect.

Kristi Faith said...

Natalie,
I've done that more times than I can count-and I could kick myself for not going back to those manuscripts at a later time.

I'm loving my project right now, but I know what you mean about writing something that doesn't exite you. I like the direction you are taking

Jody Hedlund said...

Ah, Natalie! Don't feel bad! It's been interesting to hear your NaNo experience. Since I've never done it before, I can imagine my experience would be very similar to yours!

Jemi Fraser said...

I think you have to have the right project for NaNo. I really flip flopped between 3 projects because I really worried about the same thing. I decdided against one of them because it required too much research. I won't be able to write that one quickly. The 2nd one is a cozy with too many intricate steps to do in a month. I decided on the one I chose because it's a fun romp and I can make stuff up for it. :)

Don't worry about changing mid-stream - I think lots and lots of people do it. It's just not a biggie :)

Matthew Delman said...

There's maybe half a dozen projects I've abandoned over the years. The ideas simply weren't there.

I haven't gone back to them though ... don't know if I ever will, actually. But they were good practice.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes!! NaNo didn't work for me either, but I did do two weeks of "Fast Draft" and wrote about 20K before I had nowhere else to go with it.
But I went back to it a few months later and was able to work out an outline and finish it.

Sorry to hear your little one is sick. Take care!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I have two sitting in my computer 10,000 words in. One is a little more impatient than the other, but I'm not certain I'll go back to either.

Hope your child feels better.

I've found that I put increasing pressure on myself as the novel moves along. I wanted to be finished with my WIP by Christmas and all of a sudden, somewhere along the way I bumped it up to Thanksgiving. Sanity, what's that?
~ Wendy

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I really enjoyed reading this post Natalie. Good for you for knowing when to call it a day, and for being brave in announcing it. You don't have to rationalize it, it just is.

Diane said...

If you're not enjoying it then it's not worth it. Glad you stepped back and redirected your efforts! :O)

Marybeth Poppins said...

Having a project you can believe in is important. I'm only having such an easy time because I have been brewing this story for MONTHS! It's been playing around in my head and I already charted it out and wrote back stories for each character, time lines, Donald Maased work booked it.

Don't feel bad. Your idea is not dead...you are just not ready for it :)

Corey Schwartz said...

I think it's great that you gave it a shot. And just as great that you knew when it was time to let it go.

melane said...

I have to echo everyone else's advice. If you don't love your story and you dread working on it, then shelve it for now. After all, writing is supposed to be fun. That's why I decided not to do NaNo this year. I am having a blast working on my MS and I didn't want to put any pressure on myself to have a huge word count every day.

Sorry to hear about your daughter being sick; I hope she feels better soon.

Linda Kage said...

Bad NaNo. How dare you hurt Natalie's muse.

But honestly, I agree with everyone else. Don't do if you don't feel it. It's not like you have a publisher anxiously waiting for the completed project and you'll lose millions if you don't reach this goal(do you?). I say go find that story that will make you millions--or you know, that story that just feels right!!

Jill Kemerer said...

I'm glad you're following your gut on this one. Too often, we try to fit ourselves into a mold that just doesn't work. Not everyone should write a book in a month--some definitely should!!--but not everyone. Hope your daughter feels better!

CKHB said...

MAKE NaNo WORK FOR YOU. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I've NEVER written 50K in a month. Not once. But I use NaNo as a reminder to write more often, to hush my inner editor, to take more risks. And, I like having the forums where I can go and say (as I recently did), "tell me about your first tattoo" and get a dozen responses. But if the word count goal is messing with your style, dump it. I'm sure you'll be able to come back to the project later on. Write what makes you happy!

Valerie Geary said...

Don't write something if you're not enjoying it; your readers probably won't like it either!! The beautiful part is: you didn't waste your time; you just got some really good practice in. And like everyone's said before me... you may come back to it someday and it may just be the most brilliant thing you've ever written! Now go take care of your daughter... :)

Mary said...

I didn't do NaNo for that very reason. I don't like to rush through something. I write slow and it works for me. Also wanted to finish my current WIP before starting a new project. Unfortunately my story isn't holding my interest right now so I'm working on a short story idea. I still love my novel though and will be returning to it after a short break.

Sorry about your daughter. Hope she is better soon and that you don't catch it too.

Lisa and Laura said...

We've definitely quit manuscripts 5 - 10,000 words in. Usually we know it's going to work if we've made it past the 25,000 word mark. It's so hard to quit though isn't it? I always feel guilty about leaving them unfinished, but I guess it's better than forcing words and being left with a craptastic manuscript, right?

Hope your daughter feels better soon!

Lady Glamis said...

NaNo was an interesting experience for me last year. I'm still working on that book a year later. I was glad to get out a draft in a month, but at the same time I think it created more problems than it fixed. I think you're making a great decision if this isn't the way to write for you. Only you can make that decision. I hope your daughter gets well soon.

Beth said...

I think you made the right choice. I'm praying your daughter feels better soon and that you're able to focus and work at a pace that works for you!

paulgreci said...

I set one down after about 10,000 words. It just wasn't working for me. I may come back to it at some point. I think you're wise to follow your instincts.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Now I have a new fear. What if my new WIP IS crap and I just don't know it? This is only the second novel I've written, so what if I'm too oblivious to know a bad story when I write it? Maybe I'm not smart enough to say "this is crap" and start something new. Oh well, I love the stuff I'm writing right now. Craptastic or not. Good for you for not letting NaNo drag you down. :) And I hope the lil munchkin feels better soon.

Cammie said...

I tip my hat to you, Natalie! You are in no way a quitter (a word we driven types don't take lightly!) You are a "listener" ... to YOURSELF. I remember that break-neck pace of Nano writing like it was yesterday (it was actually 2 years ago for me.) In mid-October of this year, I told my husband that I was seriously considering doing Nano again in order to add fuel to the fire of my rewrite. He immediately said, "I don't think that's a good idea. Your goal now is quality, not quantity. You KNOW you can produce the pages. So don't add an arbitrary time crunch to the task." Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE Nanowrimo fan, but I really think it's something to be done only when it suits your writerly needs. For me, it was the ultimate "stop-SAYING-you're-gonna-be-a-writer-and-just-do-it" vehicle. I needed the boot camp structure at that point in my life. I don't now. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying tuck those first 13,000 words away in your "novel graveyard" folder (or whatever you call it) and know that you can ALWAYS resurrect them if the inspiration hits!

Sarah Skilton said...

I couldn't agree more with this sentence: "The breakneck pace made me dread writing, and my writing time is supposed to be fun."

I tried to adapt an old screenplay into a novel, and it became a chore of cutting, pasting, rearranging, trying to add false-sounding description... it wasn't very fun and I'm glad I abandoned it.

My current project is the exact opposite -- I go to bed excited to work on it the next morning, and I love spending time in the story's world with my characters each day. I think you were wise to shift your focus and I hope this new idea brings back the spark for you. Good luck!

staceyjwarner said...

Good for you for following your heart.

I have a screenplay that needs a rewrite but it hasn't felt right to rewrite it. It is tough because it is a great story.

I'm currently working on my first prose project so no, I haven't quit but if you aren't feeling it, shelf it.

much love

Renee Collins said...

Yes, I've shelved sizable chunks. It can be pretty disheartening, but you have to look at it in context of: look how much I've learned. (Man, that sounds kind of corny and cliche. . .)

Well, good luck anyway. And way to follow your instincts, even if it's a hard decision.

Tamika: said...

I quit my first manuscript 15,000 words in. It was the most draining and tramatic experience I've had. Like you I still believe in that story and I plan to go back to it.

It's good that you know what writing style works for you. NaNo is no joke and I have decided to not kill myself to get the word count but do my best. The first week was grueling for me! I had a migraine by Saturday and Sunday I didn't write at all. I took the time and spent in meditation.

Vonna said...

I've got one still in a file on my desktop that I halted at 25K. Didn't like the voice-- the girl is too whiny. I'll work on her again when her attitude improves.

Congrats on knowing when to shift your focus to something more productive. Good luck with your new project.

Janna Qualman said...

Good for you! You have to follow that instinct. Good luck!

Still, the pukey kind is ucky. (Hope she's better soon.)

kathrynjankowski said...

Writing is all about listening to that inner voice and going with what works for YOU. If you go back to your old project, fine. If not, fine. You'll write the stories you're meant to write and we'll cheer you on no matter how fast or slow you go.

Blank said...

I did the same thing this year! Quit and started a new story. I wanted to write something I liked, especially since I'm not longer pursuing publication. Why torture myself? Also, I got a puppy this month. November is not the best time to get puppy if you're trying to write a novel! I'm way behind. But I'm not quiting!

T. Anne said...

You're ultimately in control always do what's in the best interest of your story. I think you should credit yourself the word count no matter what. It's the fact you sat down and worked that counts as well. It's teaching us the importance of discipline but not at the cost of our story. Feel liberated and do what makes you feel good. I'm rooting for you no matter what!!!

Terri Tiffany said...

I think you did the right thing! that isn't your style, why waste precious time on something your heart isn't in to? I wrote a story a few years ago but never finished it. Today I opened it up and found it pretty good. Might just get around some day and work it through:)

Matt said...

I'm with you Natalie. But then, I never started NaNo. For me writing better be fun, or I don't want to do it. And yes, I've given up on a number of stories that stopped being fun. But who knows, they're still on my hard drive. Never delete, and never write what you aren't feeling.

Dawn Simon said...

I think it's good you tried it and learned more about what works for you/doesn't work for you. While I think aspects of it sound cool and I know it's great for some people, I'm pretty certain it would only stress me out and take some of the joy out of my project. I salute YOU for trying it, and I hope your daughter feels well soon.

Just Joany said...

Hi Natalie,
I'm glad you made the effort with NaNo and I do recognize that every person has to find his/her own style. I'm doing NaNo, with migraineous reservations. Thus, I'm not doing as well as I did last year. However, I am enjoying my writing and that's what's really important, as you clearly stated. Thanks for your wise words.

~ Yaya

Yaya's Home
Red Wagon Flights

devonellington said...

It depends.

When it's contracted and deadlined, I see it through, no matter what. Otherwise, I couldn't earn a living.

sometimes, though, it's the wrong time for a story. I put it aside, work on other things, and let it percolate/ripen. Then, when I go back to it, it's much more productive.

Nano is important in helping you prioritize your writing. Techniques I learned in Nano have helped me as a full time writer.

Every novel has its own innate rhythm. Nano makes you get words on paper. Unfortunately, it often pushes the innate rhythm, which causes more work in the revision stage, because you're not being true to the book, just the word count.

During the years I did Nano, I realized that I write far more than 50K every month. Otherwise, I couldn't pay the bills. However, it's not all focused on a single project!