Not the NaNoWriMo Announcement I'd Hoped to Make

Last night a splinter that I'd been unable to remove from my hand finally worked its way far enough out of my skin that it could be pulled out, which was a great relief to everyone involved.

Also last night, after a lot of pain and frustration and agonizing, I decided that it was time to let go of NaNoWriMo 2015. I am, of course, a sucker for that kind of narrative symmetry, and on the strength of it I'm going to try to explain my decision rather than simply pretend the whole NaNoWriMo thing never happened.

I'll make a list, because that's less daunting (for me, at least).

  • I've participated in NaNoWriMo on eight previous (non-consecutive) years. On six occasions I have reached the 50,000-word line. On three of those occasions I have had a complete story, beginning to end, that could then be revised. There is no longer any question as to whether I have the capacity to complete this challenge. The feeling of accomplishment is nice, sure, but the real value of the event is as a tool to push me to put together a longer draft at a pace I couldn't sustain all year round.
  • Which brings me to my next item: this story is not ready to be drafted. I thought it was. I'd done research, I'd done some planning, I had a good sense of the driving conflict. As a pantser, this is all I've needed in prior years to produce a solid draft. But it's self-evidently not working for this particular story. At no point in the past eleven days has the story moved on its own. If experience has taught me anything about my own process, it's that when a story doesn't move, that particular story isn't ready. Forcing it won't make it more ready.
  • I have more than subjective feelings to suggest that the story isn't ready. The 13,000+ words I did manage to crank out have revealed to me that this novel is more complex in structure than I realized. Chiefly, beating my head against this wall has led me to the realization that what I want to write here is essentially a novel in the form of an almanac. Doing that is going go require two things: advance planning I haven't done, and totally different research from the kind I've been doing. Again, forcing the issue is not going to make the information I need appear in my brain, when it's information I simply do not possess.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I asked myself, "if this were not NaNoWriMo, if I didn't feel like it was a point of pride to make this happen, if all I cared about what getting the story right, what would I do?" The answer was: I'd stop writing, spend some time researching and outlining, and try again. And after an answer like that, what can you do?
  • Also, I've had a truly comical sequence of minor disasters starting October 28th and continuing through yesterday, and though it's bad doctrine I can't help feeling like it's some kind of omen.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm OK with this. Obviously, I invest a lot emotionally into NaNoWriMo. It's painful to feel like I'm giving up, sitting on the sidelines (like a loser, that howliday jack whispers) watching everyone else charge onwards.

On the other hand, I'm making the best decision I can that will allow me, eventually, to produce a rambling and complicated (and, yes, melancholy--this is me we're talking about) novel that is an almanac and a meditation on Ecclesiastes and also about a woman who helps mouse-shaped ghosts get to the afterlife while nursing a broken heart and trying to win a philosophical/psychological game of chicken with the hungriest hellhound.

In short, it is unquestionably the right decision and also not the one I want to make. I'm sure I don't need to philosophize re: the broader application of this little incident.

Instead, I will take my little lead snail and start trudging down the detour.

Comments