I get it. It’s December 9th and NaNoWriMo ended over a week ago. I should have posted this then, but my immune system seems hell-bent on taking me down before Christmas. You will forgive my belated post on the matter, I hope!
When I wrote about NaNoWriMo before, I talked about how I hit the ground running. I followed that up by talking about how I survived a long weekend away and managed to write quite a bit. So here’s how it all turned out.
In November 2009, I stayed up until 3 or 3:30 a.m. on the 26th, furiously writing to get to my 50k. I didn’t want to have to worry about it on Thanksgiving, so I just did whatever in order to put myself across that line. This year I had myself so far ahead (I must say that friendly competition is a great motivator) that I didn’t feel stressed. I went out the night before Thanksgiving and when I got home at 1 a.m. (after having no drinks because I wanted to write), I sat down to start writing. It didn’t even take my 1667 words for the day to put me across the line. By 2 a.m. on November 25, I was a NaNoWriMo winner.
And I was still just as proud of myself as I’d been the year before. I think that’s got a lot to do with the fact that I was so sure (as frequent readers might remember) that my success last year was a fluke and that I’d never be able to do it again. This story has been so much easier to write and I’ve had a better time with it. I feel like I’m both out of and right in my element at the same time. And a couple of interesting things happened to me while I was writing it, too.
First, I became less afraid of using concrete examples, dropping names, and making cultural references. If I ever decide that publishing is something I want to consider, then copyright law will have to be considered. For right now, I stopped being afraid to let my character just be who he is and do what he does.
In that same vein, I know that my character is not me. He and I have some things in common and some of this thoughts and actions are inspired by things I have thought or done or thought about doing or obstacles I have overcome, but we are not one. He says things I would never dream of saying. Everyone always says “Write what you know” but if everyone followed that to a T, fiction wouldn’t exist. That being said, there is a character in my story and I am afraid people will think this character (I’m being vague for a reason) is me and that I’m trying to hammer the reader over the head with a message.
The character is not me and I’m not trying to hammer the reader over the head with a message. It just happened to be a concept that I thought was interesting. This is perhaps my biggest concern with letting anyone read it, and even that concern is not overwhelming.
I learned, in the process of creating my characters, that Facebook is an excellent way to “research.” And I mean that. I looked at profiles of people I don’t know, which, frankly, sounds creepy, but if they’re leaving their information open, then I might as well get ideas from it. I also know that none of my characters are modeled after one or even two people. My characters are composites. They are people I imagined, fleshed out with details inspired by people who actually exist. I want to make it very clear that the details are INSPIRED BY … I haven’t taken anyone’s life and written it into my story. I tried to get a feel for what people were like who possessed certain characteristics or interests that I wanted my characters to have.
I have decided that I don’t care what people think about that research technique. It works for me. How is it any different than going into public and observing those same people? I’ve also decided that I don’t care what people think about my story. Why? Because I like it. I didn’t write this story for anyone else. There’s no dedication attached to it. This novel, like the last one, began and ended because of me and my desire to write and to prove to myself that I could do it and do it again. Therefore, as with any other story, some will like it while others will not and that’s okay with me because I’m happy with it (so far). That’s not to say that I won’t welcome constructive criticism and feedback when the time comes to send my baby out to mix and mingle, and I certainly don’t mean to be standoffish, but I’m not going to eat my fingers worrying about whether someone else loves it. Show me a book that everyone in the world can unequivocally agree is either the best book ever written or is the worst, and I will find it necessary to be a bit more concerned about perception.
I learned that sometimes you have to research some really weird stuff, but if it makes the story more believable, then it’s worth someone getting on my computer and wondering if there’s something about me that I’m not telling them.
Maybe the most interesting thing that happened to me while writing, though, was that I felt more like a writer. I felt more like I had a craft that I was honing and not that I was just spewing words down on paper, which, ironically, is kind of the point of NaNoWriMo. My word-spew seemed stronger this year, though.
I’m very much looking forward to continuing to work with this novel. 50k is really nothing, and I know I might even need to double that in order to finish telling the story. The point is that, unlike last year, I didn’t just stop when I crossed the finish line. I ran a victory lap, actually, and added another 2000 words the next day. Actually, since November ended, I’ve written more days than I haven’t written. I don’t always write 1667, but I write something, and I always try to leave myself in a position to pick up my idea and run with it the next time (as opposed to forgetting where I was going with it).
I’ve always been a strong writer in most cases (though writing is an incredibly objective task and no one hits the mark 100% of the time) and I’ve always loved doing it. Somewhere along the line, I started taking it for granted, though, and so I stopped finding it exciting and I stopped appreciating it. I’d never tried penning a novel before, however, and so a funny thing happened when I shifted the nature of my relationship with writing. I threw caution to the wind, tried something new, and I fell in love. There are days when writing really gets on my nerves and when I feel like I need a break, but for the most part, I’m dedicated. We have a pretty good relationship.
(Is that extended metaphor weirding you out yet? It’s only about the 8th time I’ve sounded totally creepy in this post.)
That first novel is still in my mind. I think about it every day, actually, which probably doesn’t count for much unless I’m actually doing something with it (which I haven’t done in about a month). I still have every intention on finishing the second revision and though I am many things, a quitter is not one of them.
Now if only I were getting paid for all of this….