Friday, November 20, 2009

The NaNoWriMo Blues....

I've written myself into a corner. Really, I have.

As I started National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this month, I knew that finishing was going to be a long shot. I had written 50,000 words last November, and my plan was to finish it this month despite huge deadlines and a very busy month of homeschooling and grading. My story is about a literature professor/lifelong evangelical who is exposed to liturgical worship and the changes that result from this huge shift in her view of Christianity and worship. Obviously partly (mostly?) autobiographical, this novel was my way of writing my own story, of fictionalizing the research I've done over the past eight years on Anglicanism, on liturgical worship, and how valuable liturgy has become to me as an evangelical.

But this month I followed the usual advice given to most novelists: add conflict. So I added an event in which my character is physically attacked and the repercussions of this act on her faith. And I am very much regretting doing so.

I've lost the heart and soul of my story in trying to add "interest." I am by no means a writer of fiction. Characters don't come to me in the night, begging to be heard. Stories don't spin themselves out in my brain. I write nonfiction. So NaNoWriMo was a stretch for me, a good exercise in flexing my literary muscles. Last year I felt God's pull on me to write this story, and it somehow wrote itself; I felt more like a scribe than a writer. This year I am dragging words forth. Writing a thousand words seems a Herculean effort than doesn't seem to be led at all by the Holy Spirit. Big problem.

This afternoon I have a Write-In scheduled at our local library with at least one other member of our Writers' Workshop, and I am at a loss. I have fallen behind this week (again) and am plain old STUCK. I don't like what I've written, the direction the novel is taking at all. I've abandoned my first story in order to make a novel I am not planning to publish anyway marketable. What was I thinking?????

I am hoping today that I can kick the last 22,000 words out of my mind (keeping them for word count purposes -- I can't write 50,000 words in ten days) and try to move my original story forward. When I finished NaNoWriMo last year, I stopped at a very natural stopping place, but I don't know where to go from there. At all.

Part of me (and a very persuasive part at that) tells me just to shelve the whole thing and forget NaNoWriMo for this year, at least. I can always send in what I wrote last year to be printed, something I didn't do last year but something I would like to do anyway since I managed a light edit during the first week of the month and liked it well enough to print myself a copy. But part of me feels like quitting is "cheating" of some sort, and that I need to keep pushing forward, one way or another.

We are taking Thanksgiving Week off -- no homeschooling for ten days, including weekends. I can take this time to really focus my writing, or to at least start reading A Tale of Two Cities for Logos (our church's literary discussion group), or to simply rest and work on my Brave Writer deadlines due a week from tomorrow. I will do the latter, hope to do the reading, and may need to push through and finish this darn story just so I don't feel like a quitter, like less than a "real" writer.

Sigh. I suppose I'll sit down this afternoon and try to get going on some part of the story, either continuing what I have started this month just for the sake of doing so, or start again and truly continue the real story dealing with internal conflict rather than external conflict I've weakly fabricated to make my story "interesting." Or maybe I'll write a poem or two to remind myself that I can write something decent once in a while.  I feel like I have two distinctly different books here, and my left-brained self does not cope well with two disparate elements trying to meld into one -- the proverbial square peg in round hole scenario. Ugh.

And worse of all, I have New Moon stuck in my head (review coming soon), images from the wonderful, wonderful film that Elizabeth and I saw last night -- I mean, this morning -- at a midnight showing swirling through my mind, screaming tweens & teens and all.  Somehow Meyer's writing keeps spinning around in my head, taunting me this entire month with her deeply-drawn characters and great page-turning plots. I know we writers can't compare ourselves to other writers, but still ... I keep doing it, and it's contributing to my shutting down.

In half an hour I'll drive over to the Write-In and see what happens. I'll let you know how it goes....

UPDATE: The Write-In got my juices flowing and I think I just may be on track. 20,000 words I've written will not be used; I managed to save three pages of what I had already written and started from there. So including the 20K I won't be using (and turned to a yellow font for now), I'm within 350 words of 25,000 -- the halfway point. And I have some great ideas for using some already-written material that may help make up for having to write half my word count in the last ten days. Finally things are steaming forward ... I hope. 

1 comment:

sarah said...

I don't know whether to encourage you to keep going or advise you to stop wasting your precious time on a project you know is not advancing you in any way. So I guess I will just give you ((hugs)) and say, sometimes ending before the finish line is not quitting, not failing, but having the courage and wisdom to give up the fruitless race for a trail leading into a garden.


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