The Unexpected Path

So far in this NaNo, I’ve learned a number of valuable lessons and I thought I should turn up here and share them. Also to let you know that, while NaNo hasn’t been going well so far, I’m not dead. Honest. Not even undead. šŸ˜‰

The first weekend of NaNo went fairly well, wrote around 18k, including 10k that Sunday. I thought I was on a roll and that this would be as fun and wild a ride as the April and July camps were.

Then Monday hit.

I had trouble getting going from the moment I got off work. I got a bunch of other stuff done, but really didn’t feel it when I sat down to write. This is unusual for me and I’m not good at dealing with it apparently. I pushed a little, because not feeling it isn’t an excuse I allow myself, and managed to get to 1000 words or so painfully and with difficulty. I went to bed thinking, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow will be better.”

It wasn’t. Same problem, same amount of productivity. No I didn’t start to panic. Okay, maybe I was a bit worried, and yes, definitely felt behind even though I wasn’t by any definition.

Wednesday was just as bad. Maybe worse. I swear, by that point I had zero attention span. I mean, I was distracted by EVERYTHING. Might even have gotten derailed by the sound of my own breathing at one point. It was that bad, people. And again with the 1k words that were a horrible struggle.

Thursday I gave up after about 250 words when I nearly cried at how little I could concentrate. I watched the first season of Supernatural again instead. Anything to distract myself. Yes, I did see the irony in this. Laughed all the way through my tears.

Friday I skipped #WriteClub and writing, though not without the constant, guilty feeling that I should be writing. In fact, by that point I felt so horrible about trying to write this book that I was more or less hiding from Twitter. I couldn’t bear to face anyone with my non-writing. I ate a bunch of chocolate and watched more Supernatural. Didn’t feel better. At all.

Saturday, I decided I needed to take some time away from even thinking about writing. As in not expect myself to, not try, not even think about opening Scrivener. I made a few notes about some other stuff I have cooking, but even that was a no-pressure thing. If the thoughts were there, I wrote them down. If they weren’t, I didn’t worry. Instead I went to see Thor: Dark World (I highly recommend that by the way. Want my own copy so badly right now). And watched more Supernatural. I swear, that show’s become my comfort food. Well, tv. Whatever.

Yesterday came and I was so miserable all morning that I knew I had to do something. This could NOT continue if I was to hold on to any semblance of sanity. Or at least my version of sanity, which is still kinda crazy. I sat down and had a long talk with myself. It may or may not have been out loud and my cats may or may not have attempted to participate. Not telling. šŸ˜‰

What came out of this discussion was that, for a long list of reasons, I wasn’t mentally prepared for NaNo this year, and didn’t have my head in the story. More than that, I know there’s a problem with it. There has to be, for it to be fighting me so hard. I don’t know what that problem is though, and no amount of brainstorming has helped me figure it out so far. This does not bode well for me for NaNo this year.

So I gave myself permission to:

a) Not win NaNo this year. I’m super-competitive with myself about stuff like this, so this point is almost a miracle.

b) Not finish Rise Above for the present. I will eventually, once I know what the problem is. I want to close that trilogy and get the story out into the world but at the moment, I’d just be beating my head into a brick wall.

c) Work on something else. This is another minor miracle. I have nothing else prepared, but I really do feel like writing (thus the pain from not being able to get RA working right). This means I need to do something, so I am.

As a result, me and my steampunk vampire story are having a little fling. I sort of know where the story goes, in a very general way. So far, I’m essentially pantsing it, and I don’t expect to keep much of what I’m writing right now, but the words are flowing and for that I’m grateful. I’m also having some fun with it, though it’s still very early.

This path isn’t what I’d planned and it’s a little daunting because I like this story and I don’t want it to die on me. Historically, that’s what happens when I try to pants a whole novel. I get lost somewhere between 30-50k words. I’m hoping that won’t happen this time and maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ve learned enough about storytelling and construction to make it through. I have a rough idea of the shape, and I’m not rushing myself for once. This is both a first in a long while and a very good thing.

See, I realized during this crisis of non-writing that my expectations of myself have become utterly RIDICULOUS. Yes, that required caps because it’s that bad. When I first did NaNo, all I was shooting for was pace. 1667 words a day. Anything 2k and over made me happy. 4000 words in a day? Positively giddy! Now? 3k words in a night after the day job makes me feel incredibly lazy. On weekends it’s even worse. Under 5k and I ask myself what the hell I’ve been doing with my day.

That’s stupid. I know that, but I haven’t been able to rein it in. Now is the time to do that. I have a lot going on in my personal life that will mean I probably won’t be able to devote 10-12 hours a day to drafting anymore. And that’s okay. I need some balance. I need to learn to be more reasonable too. Besides, the things that are taking up some of that time are wonderful, amazing things that make my life so much better. I’m lucky enough to have some very special people in my life these days.

I just need to learn to set myself reasonable expectations for myself.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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9 Responses to The Unexpected Path

  1. ginahagler says:

    Sounds like you really are on the right path right now. Nano for me this year is being used to draft the first chapters of a nonfiction book. To say it is painful is to not even come close. But I’m hanging in there and honestly, hearing your story makes me feel like I’m not the only one who is not racing cleanly to the finish line! Thanks for the post!

  2. quix689 says:

    I’m sorry that you’ve been having such trouble with this story. I know it will work in the long run, though. Maybe you’ll get sudden inspiration for something later that will make the story so much better, and then you’ll be relieved that you didn’t write it earlier. That’s happened to me before. I put off writing something and then have an idea for how to make it better.

    Of course, a lot of that is just me being lazy and trying to make myself feel better about being lazy. But obviously that’s not your problem. You’re not lazy at all. You’re the most awesome writer I know! So if your current plan wasn’t working, it’s definitely good that you changed it! Good luck with the current story. I hope this one keeps working for you. šŸ™‚ *hugs*

  3. Morgen Rich says:

    Trusting your instincts can be difficult when you’re also pressuring yourself, but your instincts are always right. If the story isn’t speaking to you, then you’re probably right about something not working in it. Whatever that problem is will smack you in the face when you least expect it, and then the words will come of their accord. They always do eventually. Glad to see you’re not beating yourself up. I’d hate to have to whack you for bullying my friend. šŸ˜‰

  4. So I haven’t had any time for reading blogs these days due to being behind on Nano, but today I notice my Julie was only at 22k and I looked at your stats and you were only at 22k and I thought “what on earth HAPPENED to that girl?” So I popped on over here. šŸ˜‰

    Sorry to hear about your problem. Firstly, I want to say: *hugs*

    Secondly, I’m super proud of you for not beating yourself up like others said. I hope you have a good time with your new story and I’m sure Rise Above will sort itself out! šŸ™‚

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    I think it’s good to step back when having so much difficulty with a story. The odd day or two once in a while is normal. But when every day is like pulling teeth, something isn’t quite right somewhere. Letting it simmer on the back burner is a good way to go.

    You’ve been writing at an incredible pace for a truly incredible length of time. And maybe your brain needs a little vacation. And I suspect the life changes and shake up of your routine will fit the bill nicely. And before long, you’ll be happily meeting your goals again with quality words. šŸ™‚

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