The End of NaNoWriMo 2010

You’re probably not reading this unless you, too, worked on NaNoWriMo this year.

I had a blast; I hope you did, too.

But now, I must analyze and rant.

No, you may not read what I wrote yet.  I mean, you could read it, if you wanted to see what my first drafts look like, but I’m certainly not going to offer, and I’m certainly not going to ask anyone to read it, not even my critique group, at this point, because all that will be said are the things that should be said (“You need to clean this up”) and the things that make me despair of them being said (“This is great!”).  It’s a mess, and I need to clean up that mess before anybody’s comments can get to the meat of what needs/doesn’t need to be fixed.

No, I won’t read your NaNoWriMo first drafts, for the same reason.  Yes, you wrote it; yes, I’m proud of you; no, I would rather read it after it’s cleaned up and you want to know if it’s ready to send out or, even better, after it’s published.  This does not mean that I don’t respect you, but reading people’s ms. in draft is a special gift that I share with my critique partners, because they can survive all my nassssssty criticism and still like me for who I am.

Share drafts only with people you’re comfortable having mock you, and make sure they’re mocking what you want to have mocked.

I have a couple of observations from this year’s slog:

  • I hate reading excerpts (see above).  If it’s not tight enough to be the Quote of the Day, I don’t want to hear it.
  • People are very supportive, even when they shouldn’t be.  If you say, “I didn’t get my word count done essentially because I didn’t feel like it,” there’s a chorus of, “Oh, everyone has days like that.”  Darlin’, I don’t know about you, but mean to be a professional writer, writing professional-level fiction.  The proper response is, “Get the @#$% off the Internet then, dumbass.”  Please don’t encourage me to fail.
  • This is the first year I’ve been freelancing during NaNoWriMo; thus, the first year I had control of my own schedule.  My sweet spot for getting work done is about 4-6K per day with the story.  This requires a certain lack of editing and Internet access and about 4-5 hours.  The few days I wrote around 1,667 words, I was frustrated, because I didn’t make enough progress with the plot to find out what happened next.
  • I’m a plotter, but I went so far off my original outline that I was lost at one point.  Chris Mandeville (at the NaNoTryMo that she speakered) suggested using a calendar instead of an outline and said, “And it really helps when it comes to writing the synopsis.”  It was very useful–it kept me focused on the plot without cutting me off from inventive side journeys.  Not sure how it’ll be with regards to the synopsis.
  • I thought my next step was going to be doing the research that I blithely skipped during drafting, but I now think it’s going to be the synopsis.  The ending is off-kilter, and I’ll feel better knowing I’ve nailed that.
  • You know that horrible feeling of “I didn’t want to come back” that you have after you finish a good book?  Every novel that I’ve finished (including every time I finish an editing pass), I have that feeling.  Unless I’m completely stressed out by something else, it overwhelms me for a few days.  This year, I had to finish a WFH project, so it didn’t hit me until I’d finished that, too.  The depression of being in between stories is this sucking maw of “I have no feelings,” but it’s a sign that you did what you were supposed to do.  Good books make us sad when we leave them; if you’re sad when you finish your draft, you have the core of a good book. That doesn’t mean that you’ve written your book well enough to communicate that goodness to anyone else, though.

Finally, a rant about rejection.  In the interests of science! I’ve been posting my rejections and stats on my short stories on Twitter.  Again, I get a lot of comments of people saying that I shouldn’t give up, it happens to everyone, and if only the editors were smarter they would have bought it.

I thank everyone who has said nice things to me to make me feel supported; I do.  But don’t tell me that the magazine editors aren’t picking the best stories.  They are picking the stories as best they can, for their market.  I’m either writing stories that aren’t good enough, writing stories that are going to the wrong markets, or being beaten by more appropriate stories–a matter of taste.

It’s not my magazine.  The editor’s taste = success/failure of the magazine.  What, I should take away the editors’ ability to do their jobs?  Because I’m THAT good?

I’m not a narcissist (I have many, many other flaws).  I don’t think that my stories are The Best Ever.  I have a long way to go to get from the bottom of the semi-pro level (which is where I think I’m writing at, now) to the pro level.  Yes, part of breaking in is about who you know (but getting to know people in the writing industry is about being talented and professional and following up on opportunities, not about some weird little birthright, so that’s no excuse).

Most of breaking in is about breaking through your own skull, getting rid of the bullshit that tricks you into thinking you’re better than everyone else (or worse; that’s just as bad), and hauling ass.

Do the work.  If you’re not getting the results, don’t do the same thing and whine about your lack of success.

And if I’m not getting the results I want, don’t whine for me!

(This message is as much for me as anybody else, I promise!)

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2 Comments

  1. I feel so empty now that my NaNo novel is done, I’m having a hard time writing another novel that’s been stewing in my head for the last month — and I couldn’t wait to be done with the NaNo novel so that I could start this one! I think I’ve had enough separation time; it’s time to bring out the red pen and rip that baby apart!

    I have a hard time sharing my stuff with people not because I’m afraid of them tearing it apart, but because, nine times out of ten, they’ll tell me it’s great. “But it’s not!” I’ll say. “Tell me what’s wrong with it!” And they say, “Nothing. It’s awesome!”

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that my mom and friends like my stories, and I’m so glad I shared my first draft online this NaNo. I wanted to build up a readership, and I did. They helped me with some grammar and cheered me on, getting me to the finish line. Now, I have my own list of what is wrong, and will whip it into a second draft that I can hand to my critique team; I don’t want to have anyone else edit it just yet because I already know a lot of what is wrong. It would be ridiculous, having them look it over when I already have a running list. When that list is tackled? Hell yeah. Give me your worst!

    This NaNo was the best yet, I think. I learned a lot more and I actually finished a story that I’m still proud of now that it’s over. I’m sad that it’s over, actually, but I’ve already got ideas for a sequel and maybe a prequel, so I’m definitely not done with those characters.

    • De

      I’m glad you walked away from NaNo with a story you loved – that IS the most important part.

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