November Retrospective

I nearly entitled this post December Retrospective but then I thought that didn’t sound right. I’m looking back at November not December, I’m just writing it in December. Oh lets face it my brain is fried, I’m not even sure retrospective is the right word. Basically a post looking back at November and the madness that is NaNoWriMo.

I wrote a post about NaNo before November started stating my goals and what my thoughts were about the challenge this year. So it’s time to compare what I thought and hoped would happen with what actually did. What lessons did I learn this year? More importantly what am I going to do to carry it forward?

Goals meet reality
In that post at the end of October I said that I was aiming to write 75k, that I didn’t get the feeling of accomplishment from 50k and I wanted more. I also said that I thought I would write Eternity in the Mirror, my newest idea, unless I got a bolt of inspiration. So how did that work out for me?

I didn’t make 75k, I didn’t even make 50k to the standards that I usually apply. For me the 50k has to be on a single project, if I have to change a scene and cross things out I can’t count the crossed out words, I have to type the end. So 50,000 words isn’t just 50k, it’s 50k with standards. Well, I didn’t make the standards either. I wrote nearly 10k of random other story scenes, I wrote nearly 3k that I had to scratch out and while I did write ‘The End’ that’s because I cheated and just wrote the last scene, I didn’t write most of the middle that connects the beginning and the end. I set out to overachieve and I wound up with even less than I had last year. I nearly wound up losing the challenge completely. I wrote the last 20k in three days, wednesday – friday in the last week. I was behind and I needed to catch up, so I did and I got 50k again. So what right?

I feel a slight sense of accomplishment in actually going through with the challenge. I was behind by quite a margin, I could have just given up, thrown in the towel and called it a day. However, I did that to myself and if I can write 20k because I forced myself, why couldn’t I have done that earlier in the month? I got off to a good start, I had 11k on day two and then I just stopped. I ran into a huge plot hole and I didn’t write for a week. I did what I do best, I ran away, I ignored what I was finding difficult. It wasn’t productive and it didn’t help any. I didn’t push through the trouble until it was almost too late. So that vague feeling of success didn’t last as I knew it wouldn’t. It’s my fourth win and I just don’t feel it anymore. In fact I’m not sure I should count it as a win, yes I wrote 50,000 words in November, but it wasn’t up to standards.

Lessons learned
Planning is important. I’d picked my idea but I was very vague on most of the details. In other words I was stuck planning it, I didn’t know what to do then so I just ignored it and figured it would work itself out. Well, that didn’t go so well. In the end I wound up combining three story ideas; Eternity in the Mirror, The Throne at World’s End (which I mentioned in the last post) and an old idea I called Infinity Moments. I thought that would be enough to get me over the massive plot hole and it did fix that plot hole but it spawned a few others. Which led to more days of not writing until I wound up behind and it was write or quit time.

I’ve never been a very detailed planner but I know myself well enough to know I’m not a pantser, I like to have things worked out, so I really should have planned more before I started. I knew better than that, so I guess this really counts as a lesson relearned as I knew it before and this November just brought the point home.

Sci-Fi really isn’t my bailiwick. I love Marvel, I really do, so writing about humans with superpowers seemed like it would be fun. Having a twist of time travel, multiple dimensions, futuristic technology, I figured there would be a lot to dig into to get my 50k. It wasn’t fun it was confusing, I don’t have the imagination necessary I don’t think to properly do a story like that justice. I wound up borrowing various elements from various different fandoms and it just wound up being a big mess. I knew what I was trying to do with the story, the arc that I wanted the character to follow but it was all the surrounding detail that I struggled with. A lot of the story didn’t get written as I said above, I have the beginning and I have the end scene, the middle is a complete blank, I have a couple of scenes that fit there but they are just the lines, everything that connects the dots is still missing.

I need to learn discipline. As I said above if I can crank out 20k in three days when I absolutely have to, why can’t I adopt a more methodical approach? Every year I do NaNo and then for the rest of the year I don’t write at all. Every year I swear that I’m going to revise my story, that I’m going to keep going and every year I don’t. I did the odd couple of hundred words here and there but my big writing days only comprised about a third of the month. It always works out like that, every single year, you’d really think that this is a lesson I would have learned by now. Yet every year I repeat the same scenario. Perhaps I should just accept that that’s how I operate but I don’t want too. If I’m ever going to accomplish anything I need to be more methodical and persistent with it. Once a year just doesn’t cut it.

Looking forward
It’s no use wishing what might have been, what is done is done and I can’t change how November went. So new goals, some people have new years resolutions, I have post-NaNo resolutions. As I’ve joined a writing group I’m hoping that the continuing community will help me actually meet these goals, rather than just abandoning them like I usually do. Right well I want to revise one of these damn manuscripts. I actually want to have something that I can show other people. I want to write in months other than November, Camp next year would be a good start as I can’t revise and write new material at once, so I accept that I can’t write every month. I don’t want to get to November next year and nothing have changed.

This post has come out quite morose, not very uplifting or celebratory at all. I’m sorry, I can’t help it, it’s just how I view it. I might have reached 50k but I wasn’t happy with my performance at all, and I didn’t stretch myself how I wanted too, so despite ‘winning’ I’m disappointed. That seems crazy I know, but I can’t change how I feel about it.

Anyway, there ends the look back at NaNoWriMo madness. Your irregularly scheduled Warcraft posts will begin again, and the blog at least will ignore this craziness until next year. Anyone else think that we should really hear about Warlords beta this month? I think so, I don’t think we should go into the new year without anymore news, but we’ll have to see what happens.