I’m doing pretty poorly with my NaNoWriMo this year. I had a great first day, a decent second day, and then I got off track. We had a death on my husband’s side of the family and the longer I went without touching my novel, the more impossible it seemed that I’d ever catch up. Every day 1,667 words stacked up against me– words that I hadn’t put on the page, but had meant to.
But today I realized something. This NaNoFaiL of mine is actually a really good thing in disguise.
You might be thinking, she’s just making excuses. Ok, fair enough. Maybe I am. But I really think I got to the root of why I can’t just dive back into this project. I’m afraid I’m going to ruin a great story.
This is a story that has been living in my mind for years. It first saw life in the form of a short story, but there is so much more that needs to be told. So I started telling it, and I was really happy with the first chapter. It did exactly what I wanted it to do. I wrote it slowly and paid attention to every word I put down, making sure it expressed exactly what I wanted it to. The first chapter is startling and heartbreaking, just how I wanted it. And as the story of this young man/soldier starts to unfold in my mind (his struggles for acceptance from his grandfather, the protectiveness he feels for his brother, the complicated relationship he’s going to have with a girl who may or may not really love him, etc) I get more and more worried that I’m not going to do it justice.
So why is it a good thing that this story that I’m dying to tell is not coming together yet?
Because the purpose of NaNoWriMo, like I talked about in this post, is not necessarily to make a good quality book, but to just put words on the page. I thought that perhaps writing this story at breakneck speed would help me get it out on the page better, but actually taking that approach is kind of freaking me out. I need to move through this story more slowly. Maybe I will write 1,667 words a day, but I think I’ll need more than a month. This story probably won’t be 50,000 words, but I really don’t know yet.
And I’ll make another confession while I’m on a roll: I think I’m afraid of succeeding with this story. This is the first novel that I’ve tried to write that I’ve taken seriously and truly care about. So it’s a combination of worrying that I’ll screw it up AND succeed with it that has been slowing me down so much.
I still support NaNoWriMo and the purpose of it, but I think I this year I chose to tell a story that needs more time and attention than one month of frenzied writing can offer. I’m certainly going to keep working on it, but I may have to accept that I’m a NaNoFaiL this year and won’t make the 50,000 word mark by the end of the month. I’m not going to push myself to create quantity over quality like every other year. Those years were great because it taught me to ignore the internal editor and keep moving ahead, but it didn’t create quality text. I need to flip that around now and try to make something great out of this story.
Best of luck to you NaNos out there who are on track and succeeding! Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.