Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 Wrap-Up and IWSG.

Hola Friends. This month I am back on the IWSG bandwagon, after several months of forgetting and/or being too freaked out to post.

Yes, I'm too neurotic to participate in Alex J Cavanaugh's IWSG some months. Anyway, today is a long one. Sorry, probably because I got so used to writing in several thousand word chunks over the month that I can't cut it down now to a reasonable length.

I'm not going to apologize. I'm not going to apologize. I'm not going to apologize.

I won NaNoWriMo 2013.

Funny, I remember when that competition used to be something I looked forward to every year. I started it in 2005 and it was an amazing experience. It was similar the next few years, but by 2010 or so I was starting to dread it.

I had all this internal pressure to create a masterpiece, something so much better than anything I’d ever done before that even the first draft would sing to me like a siren (not the kind from an emergency vehicle, but like the pretty ladies that lure sailors’ to their death… wait, that sounds awful. Why would I want a story to kill me with its beauty? Oh, I forgot, it’s a metaphor – somehow, that’s a good thing to happen in my metaphor).

So I had this pressure, each word that would come out of the keyboard had to be great. GREAT! And each one that wasn’t was another personal defeat. Yes, English and I were locked in a game of death, where there could be only one victor, and in every case, it was English that won. And I can feel my failure weigh heavier upon me with each and every word I typed.

Every. Last. One.

As a result, I took a few years off.  So when the time rolled around again this year I’d be raring to go again.

But this year, the case almost from the beginning was English vs. Rusty again. I think I’d mentioned that my premise was pretty amazing. I think I had it on my list of the greatest things humans have invented for all time.*

A day into the story and all that greatness had slipped away.

A week into it and I’d quit. I’d spent three days not writing at all. I’d decided it just wasn’t going to work. But then, just like in a traditional three act structure in the Hollywood screenwriting style,  I was called to action.

Except it was just a gentle pat on the back I got from someone in my real life writer’s group that did it. Just a, ‘good job’ sort of thing. But it was enough.

I put my head to the grindstone… wait, that’s a nose that goes there, isn’t it? Ugh, that sounds awful too. Are all idioms so equally horrible sounding?** Whatever it was, I did it. I plowed forward, and had moments of hope that were enough to help me carry on.

But with a week left, after three weeks and about 35k words, I realized I was a fraud. Again. And wondered why I ever was stupid enough to try this writing thing in the first place. So I kinda quit again. I prepared my loser’s speech. Weirdly, though, If someone asked, I would say I was still doing it. After all, I was in the home stretch, I just couldn’t bring myself to type any more crap.

And it was really hard. I kept staring at the page and started typing. When I would read over what I’d already written all I could see was, crap, crap, crap, crap…. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap. After a while, it just started feeling like there is no point. I mean, the words might be different from one another, but they’re all synonyms of ‘crap.’
See the flat parts? That's where I quit. But I kept quitting my quits.

I’m better than that. I can do better. I’m not as incompetent as what my words that I’d written down kept indicating.  So I thought, I should totally quit until I pull myself together.

And I sat there, on Friday. I’d been off from work, I was tired. I’d overeaten the previous day, but I had set aside this time to write. I stared at the screen for hours. Thinking of the story that should have been, that could have been, that would never be.

I did remember the story that Neil Gaiman tells about writing American Gods. He’d called his agent (maybe it was his editor, I can’t remember) when he was about half-way through and told them that he couldn’t do it. It was too hard, that what he’d written was so bad that it was unpublishable.

He said he was really going to trash the novel and do something else. But after some panicked conversations with people who refused to let him quit, he was talked out of it. He finished. The rest is history.

Then there is the story of Stephen King and his first published novel, Carrie. The story is that his wife had to pull the pages out of the waste basket that he’d thrown away when he decided he just couldn’t do it anymore. She put the pages back on his desk and refused to let him quit.

For a brief moment, I believed. I realized I wasn’t capable of determining how bad my story was. No one can when gauging their own worth. I knew I wanted to tell a story I found entertaining. There had to be something there I could salvage.

On top of all that, I was embarrassed for myself, for my failure. So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

Of course the difference between Gaiman, King, and myself is that while they felt like imposters, I’m a real imposter. Big difference.*** But for 48 hours or so there at the end. I didn’t care. I believed. I pushed through until I completed the challenge.

Now comes the long, ugly slog to a) finish out the draft, because 50k a novel doesn’t make and b) start that multi-year long revision process. But, one thing at a time. First, I’m taking a few days to bask in the glory of my victory.

Then, I'll freak out again.

Anyhow, for those of you that are so bored you can't stand it, I've put up an excerpt. Click and enjoy. 

*I did. It was number 1. Sigh.

** Like my grandma used to say, “If someone says something mean to you, jam a shiv through their throat.’ Oh god. I just realized what that means. Oh grandma, no.

*** Yes, that means they were fake imposters, or rather, imposter imposters. I’m the legit one, the one true imposter. See, it’s these sorts of insights into the mechanizations of the human mind that really point out how much I realize I don’t know what I’m doing in any endeavor.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Where's the excerpt?
Not capable of determining how bad your story was - that might be the most profound thing you've ever said.
Keep forcing yourself to write. We're not letting you quit either.

Rusty Webb said...

@Alex - oops. Fixed now. Link included and a tab at the the top of the page.

Pat Dilloway said...

Hooray at least you won. I finished my first draft last night. It feels a bit messy but I suppose that's only natural with a global catastrophe.

Tony Laplume said...

I figured you'd rally. And so you did. Congrats!

Nissa Annakindt said...

The key to NaNo, I've heard, is to give yourself permission to write crap. Because the first draft of everything is crap.

Sadly, I only wrote 12000 words of crap this NaNo. :( But I feel like I made progress, anyway.

I've started following your blog, by the way.


Andrew Leon said...

I don't have time to read it at this moment, but, as soon as I get this other thing of yours edited, you should send me the whole thing.

The only impostors are people that never finish.

And, speaking of masterpieces, I will be next week.

Karen Walker said...

It's a major accomplishment to finish 50,000 words in one month. Pats on the back to you. And no, you are not qualified to judge your own work. Why are we writers so darned hard on ourselves?

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Oh pfft. You are no imposter.

S. L. Hennessy said...

That's awesome. You're a stronger person than I to stick with NaNo. I don't think I could do it. Congrats on the win.

stu said...

I've had similar feelings sometimes. It's important to separate the specific 'there's something wrong with this bit' feelings from the general 'I'm not good enough' ones.

M Pax said...

So how long until I get something new to read from you? :D

Woot on winning NaNo.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Sheesh. You are beating yourself up and you actually finished writing. I'm thinking of sending you a virtual smack but you might like it.

Sorry. Not trying to offend. I'm just saying that you did an amazing job writing a whole story in one month and maybe you should give yourself a small bit of credit.

Best of luck.

Jay Noel said...

You are the real deal, man. You won, and that's amazing. That's all that counts.

Crystal Collier said...

Wahoo!!! I think all NaNo novels need to be written, then pushed aside for a chunk of time--long enough for you to forget about it. Distance and time always makes for perspective. Here's where I admit I hate NaNo. It works for some people. Not perfectionists. For me the chapters have to be smooth-ish before my mind will release me to the next scene. I'm not saying perfect, but they at least have to build continuity. Yikes. I should just stop now. K. Stopping.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You sound like a fake imposter to me since you finished and learned to push yourself beyond the desire to quit.

Nigel G. Mitchell said...

Congratulations on pushing through the writer's block. I've been there many times. And for completing Nanowrimo. I only did it one year, but it was amazing.

Trisha F said...

Ohhh, don't get me wrong - I KNOW that much of my writing this year in NaNo was crap. But I certainly wrote enough words to win NaNo. And during the month of November, that's all that counts. Making the story actually read well comes later. ;)

Well done on your NaNo victory, Rusty!!! I think what is most important for a book is that the story is good. The honed, awesome writing comes later.

Trisha F said...

Oh, and of course there are probably gonna be bits of the story that will get chopped later. But they were a means to an end - that is, keeping the story going during NaNo. :)

Deborah Walker said...

You won. Fantastic. That's more than I could do. Sounds like you digged deep and there was something that just wouldn't let you quit.