Monday, November 26, 2012

50,000 Words Later

I just finished writing 50,000 words in a month. I did National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. It was my third attempted and first success. But let's get one thing straight: I did not write a novel.

I wrote 50,000 words of story about a character, but what I have is not a novel. It is a wandering collection of things that, near the end, started to become coherent. The real work of writing a novel begins with drafting 50,000 words or so. Then come the next steps. I haven't done any revision. My story has gaping holes. The character with which I began is not quite the character I ended with. And so on. But that's alright. I wasn't trying to write a novel so much as figure out some other things.

Before this experiment, I thought I had to have a big idea before writing a novel and I had no idea big enough. Writing 50,000 words created a story for me that I hadn't expected, that I never saw coming. If nothing else, it was worth it to learn that lesson.

I never expected the writing to be so emotionally draining. Physically it was tough enough. I have a herniated disk in my neck that aches. I'm having surgery done on that soon, but the greater difficulty was the sadness and confusion. To make the process easier, I created a character like myself. Digging deeply into his past and present was like going into my own. It felt at times like long therapy sessions that were draining, confusing, and, in the end, left me with more questions than answers. I hadn't expected to connect so closely with my characters and go through so much with them.

It feels good to have finished the word-count, to have come to an ending of the story, and to go do other things. At the same time, I'm tempted to dive into a new idea, this time doing it right. How would that look?

First, I would generate 10,000 words with no restrictions. I'd just write until I had the shape of the thing. At 10,000 I would set it aside and start again, this time generating 1500-2000 words daily before cutting back to about 1000 words of good writing. I would give myself at least two months, probably longer, to find the ending. Then I would read the whole thing, ripping and tearing, rebuilding and remodeling as I went. Eventually, I might have a coherent story out of it.

Why not go back to my NaNoWriMo "novel"? 

I don't want to touch it. I like having finished that project. It wouldn't be much fun to go back to it now. Maybe later, but not now. Besides, I have a new idea that I want to run with just to see what it is and where it might lead me. I don't want to go backward. I achieved my goal of sticking with an idea for 50,000 words. Now, there's only one thing to do and that's to write on.