I think one of the most important traits a writer can have is the ability to stop and admit that it’s okay that what you’re writing is not going well. Every time I write a story, I learn more about my own process and hopefully what mistakes to avoid in the future.
When I planned NaNo for this November, I had a lot of projects in my head and I couldn’t decide exactly which ones to put in the poll, so I put them all in there — including projects I hadn’t really outlined.
If I had outlined Counting Stars from beginning to end rather than just having a simple plot sketch, I would have quickly seen I didn’t have enough for a full-size novel. By the time I realized it, it had already won the poll and so I felt like I had to pursue it and figure out how to make it a bigger story.
And that was obviously insane, because I don’t think my readers would have been annoyed if I said, hey, on second thought — there’s not enough here to even write 50,000 words. Let’s do a quick 24 hour poll with projects that are more suitable.
So instead, I went into the outlining process trying to make my story longer and more ensemble like which has made writing it actually a lot more annoying. I’ve had some real life issues keeping me from really writing as much or as well as I’d wanted, but you can usually tell when you’re forcing it. I added subplots and characters that I’m not really interested in writing.
So eighteen days into NaNo, I don’t think my project is worth completing in its current form. Does that mean I give up entirely?
Actually, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. A few years ago, I was writing Mad World in July. I had started it with my old outline (based on the version I started in 2004) with Sam/Sonny baby, the Ric/Alexis/Kristina situation, etc. My Liason version was Jason and Liz in a secret relationship about Cameron, etc.
I got about ten days in and just–nothing was working. So I stopped, rewrote the outline, and made the decision to move the entire story a year earlier. What I wrote that summer ended up being what I worked on in the fall as well. I ended up rewriting Mad World again, but that was a super important to step to getting the version that you’re currently reading.
So I’m going to stop, think about the story I really want to tell and let the length be as long as it needs to be. Am I going to end up with the 33,000 words I need to win Nano? Maybe. The great thing about NaNo is that everything you write this month counts as work towards the novel, reoutlining is going to let me boost the word count as well.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to regroup, refocus, and report back to you guys tomorrow how this is going.