Proud and Not Proud: A NaNo Confessional

nano-winnerSo I did it! Yaaaay! I spent about five days this month not scrambling behind the curve, but one of those days was the 30th, so yeehaw, I’m a winner.

Buuuut… then I spent December 1st going through and deleting all the utter garbage that was only kept around because I needed the words. I had files and files of things that I deleted because it was of no value to the current draft or its future editing. It was just junk. Filler. Fluff.

I’m kind of conflicted about this year’s win. Yes, I wrote over fifty thousand words, and I’m proud of that. But in just that first sweep of cutting the fluff? That was nearly eight thousand words. Eight thousand words. I could have been typing sdf sdf sdf sdf sdf sdf and the final result would have been the same. So… less proud of that.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. A lot of that stuff was freewriting that I did to try and unstick myself from a gunked up corner of some scene that wasn’t going anywhere useful. And for the most part it worked, getting me going on things that actually were pertinent to the story. It wasn’t all completely useless.

But then I must also admit that some of those words I counted were a report for work, drafted up in a file within the NaNo document before being sent off. Not a lot. But certainly more than the 350 excess words I found myself with at the end of the month. There’s no way I can kid myself into thinking those were in any way helpful to my story.

So what do I consider a victory here?

I love NaNoWriMo. It usually comes right when I’ve gotten incredibly lazy with my writing (which seems to happen every fall and early winter). It’s a great kick in the pants to get back in gear and like I mentioned earlier, I have done every session since I first became a mom, so there’s a bit of sentimentality in my doing it as well.

NaNo is wonderful for a lot of reasons. It helps me get back on track with my writing. It is something that I can do with my friends. It forces me to move forward even if I want to stop. It gets me a lot of words that I probably wouldn’t have written otherwise, or at least not nearly as soon or as quickly.

But there is another side to NaNo that doesn’t get talked about as much. In addition to all the awesome things I get from NaNo, I also get really lazy with my craft. Writing more words is always better than writing good words.  I take time away from the people I love and the jobs that are meaningful to me, and I put that time into writing- at least in part- fluff and filler. Standards for the meals I feed my family and the state in which I keep our home fall off drastically. I don’t practice music. I don’t read. I don’t exercise.

The WIP itself has some serious problems too. But since I didn’t possibly have the time to work through the plot holes and figure out consistent and plausible and clever ways for the characters to behave, I just plowed forward and hoped I would think of something later. I wrote an entire book in which I have no idea what any of the characters even look like. Eye color, skin color, hair length, nothing. Because who has time for careful consideration in November? I’m more concerned with churning out endless streams of garbage in a desperate word grab than in actually making something that I’m proud of.

Now, maybe I’m just thinking like this because I’ve been having a hard time with depression this winter. I’ve also been stressed out at work for reasons that have nothing to do with writing. For months, I couldn’t even go to bed without my husband because I would just lay there in the dark thinking about how I’m ruining everything that is important to me. So I can’t completely blame all of these negative feelings on NaNo when my head is clearly not in a good place right now.

All the same, I am well aware of the things that NaNo is good for, but historically overlook the things that it is not good for. Maybe there are times when writing in a mad frenzy of literary abandon isn’t the best thing for my story, or even for me. Maybe sometimes having an ambitious goal can sabotage the very thing I’m trying to achieve. Maybe focusing my efforts on attaining a certain number of words may come at the cost of telling a coherent story.

I love NaNo. (Have I mentioned that yet?) So don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll have many years of reblogging and belly-aching to enjoy while I slog my way through future Novembers. But maybe, just maybe, if one of those Novembers is especially busy and I am especially unprepared, I’ll be a little more forgiving if I feel the need to just sit one out. After all, I didn’t get into writing to churn out words. I got into writing to tell stories.

How about you readers? Do you have any thoughts on NaNoWriMo, or even on just the pros and cons of quantifying writing goals? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your ideas!

Until next time, happy writing!

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