Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tales from the NaNoWriMo Trenches, Part II (The Emotional Melée)

My first friend made it easy—a sort of halfbreed cross between Inspiration and Determination.  With my lower lip clenched tightly in my teeth, my fingers warm and nimble, I launched into my WIP with a vigor I hadn't seen it quite a while.  This was it.  Time to bang out that novel in 30 days and then spend a few months making it over for the real world.  She carried me high through the first week, nudging me closer to sun with little bursts of enthusiasm.  Of course another mosher was constantly tugging at me from behind.

Hello, Guilt.  Oh yes, this little friend was high-spirited and relentless.  "Ghost Girl, you're neglecting your family!" he shouted.  "The kids can't survive on frozen salisbury steak and applesauce forever!"  I swear he even brainwashed the tater tots who glared up at me from their grease-stained paper plates and chanted "saturated fats...saturated're killing your children!" I covered my ears and pressed on, but that nasty little mosher rallied the rabid dust bunnies to revolt.  But I just closed my eyes and flung myself deeper into the pit.

Aha...halfway through the month, I felt myself slipping, tumbling in a rock slide of dwindling word-counts.  200 one day, 150 the next.  Suddenly, a toady little critter tugged at my pants leg.  Fifty more stood arm-in-arm behind him, salivating through their smug grins. Yes, it was Defeat and his minions.  Their triumphant taunts rang throughout cyberspace:  "I hit 28k today!"  "I'm almost done and I have 15 days left!" "I'm finished...time to revise!"  Yes, there I was caught in the tightly clenched jaws of defeat, clutching my meager 12,000 words in my tiny fist.  A new pile of ENG 1102 essays mocked me from the corner.  Even the Thanksgiving turkey betrayed me!  "Time to write...," they taunted.  It wasn't their fault that others were more on the ball than I was.  

But somewhere in the midst of my grading haze and my post Thanksgiving stupor, another voice sifted through the darkness.  "Look what you did!  You broke through!  You taught your students, fed your kids, and broke through!"  She grabbed me by the ear and pulled my face in close.  "There..." She pointed her bony finger at the bottom of my laptop screen.  Blinking back at me from a tiny grey box was a small but admirable figure.  Perhaps a little lean, but very well-formed and even beautiful in places.   13,340, you're not so bad.  I gave my tiny sense of Accomplishment a little pat and said, "Welcome to the moshpit, now let's go dance..."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tales from the NaNoWriMo Trenches, Part I

As promised, it's time to spill my guts about the whole NaNoWriMo whirlwind.  First, there is a very specific kind of mental gymnastics you have to do to commit yourself to this process.  I decided to do NaNoWriMo primarily to kick-start my new YA WIP and motivate myself passed whatever obstacle was keeping me from breaking through.  I won't call it "writer's block" because I had a fair idea of what I was writing and where I wanted to go.  It's more like a supra-sensory overload that left me spinning in neutral.  Perhaps it was even one part fear of failure.  After all, I had just written my best work yet and somehow it still didn't break out (not that it won't, soon).  So I told myself that it didn't matter if I didn't finish the book in 30 days, just as long as I made some real forward progress.

Okay.  All set, right?  Not exactly.  I had to stretch something else, a muscle that is strung so tightly it just might rip in two if I'm not careful.  I'm talking about the meta-writer, the constant editor that lives in my head and refuses to let me just vomit on the page.  But if you are going to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to let that baby fly!  Ouch!  Not so easy for this perfectionist.

Flexing.  Stretching.  Laying out the outline before Nov. 1st.  Check.  Hey, I even spewed some real stupidity on my awesome Scrivener note cards.  All right!  And then the righting began.  Frozen dinners, too much TV, not necessarily bathed on time—that was my kids' side of the bargain.  Ghost Hunk is rarely affected by these bouts of creative diarrhea, but he does eventually step in and man the standby parent booth when necessary.

And there I was, stoked and stretched and all warmed up.  I spat out 1200 words the first day.  Logged another 800 the second day.  Stumbled through about 250 on day 3.  Then I hit a 2K day and danced a rather conspicuous little jig at the café, though I saw very little of my family and spent the wee hours of the night preparing for class the next day.  But my main concern this crap?  No matter how much I screwed up my courage and my resolve, I still could not fight the urge to spend 20 minutes searching for the right word or go back and add that certain something to the previous scene to connect the dots.  But I did manage to throw down a few painfully nasty tidbits and move on just to keep the momentum going.  I'll come back later!  My mind couldn't help kept wandering off to the revision process already. Scratching that itch just enough to distract me from my forward motion. Back! Back, I say! (kkkaccchhhh!)  And on I marched.

By the time I got to November 20th, I had more than 13,000 words down and the satisfaction that I had indeed broken through.  By that time, however, I had also lost that sense of reckless momentum and had a new stack of papers to grade and a Thanksgiving dinner to prepare as well as a significant ghost kid crisis to diffuse.  And 37,000 words to go?!!  Oh the pressure!  It was either vomit or take a long nap and sleep it off.  I chose to sleep it off.

I'm all for NaNoWriMo and applaud those who whiz through it, some hitting 50k by Nov. 15th!  I might do it again, but I don't think I can ever kill my meta-writer or even bind and gag her long enough to spit out 50k in 30 days.  But the whole experience gave me two awesome gifts...a breakthrough and a new bit of writing software that kicks some butt.

Next:  The emotional melée of NaNoWriMo...