Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Days 21 & 22 : The Push

Between yesterday and today, I've written over 6,000 words on my So-Called Novel. I've been pushing toward 40,000 not because I'm feeling enamored with my story, characters, or anything else; instead, I've pushed toward 40K because I have my eyes on 50,000 words and the end of this present experiment.

During last year's NaNoWriMo experience, I went through the usual emotional highs and lows, at points loving, loathing, or surrendering all hope for my story. This year, I haven't had that same roller-coaster experience. Instead, I've just kept writing regardless of whether I "liked" or "understood" my story and its characters. It's almost as if this year I realized you don't have to like much less love your story; instead, you just have to sit there and crank out words.

Last year, I nearly had a nervous breakdown around the 40K mark, experiencing the Slough of Despond around 43K and a nearly crippling case of the 50,000-word giggles around 46K. Last year, I worried I'd run out of ideas and wouldn't be able to finish; this year, my So-Called Novel has too many ideas, and I'm wondering how I'll tie everything together in "only" another 10,000 words. I guess after having written a So-Called Novel last year, this year I know I'll finish...I just wonder how (and how badly).

I long ago gave up hope that what I'm writing is actually a novel; instead, I've begun thinking of it as "notes toward a novel": not an actual readable narrative, but the stops and (false) starts of a true work in progress. This being said, this year's So-Called Novel bears a closer resemblance to a "real" narrative than last year's did...but in the end, I'll still end up with a roughly 50,000-word document that in its present form will never be read by anyone other than me.

Will I ever return to revise this present work? Maybe...who knows...perhaps. Last year I told myself I'd revisit my first So-Called Novel when the time felt right, and as I've been working on this year's Narrative Mess, I keep feeling the urge to revisit and potentially revise last year's attempt. Part of me worries that this eagerness to revisit last year's So-Called Novel indicates how disengaged I am with this year's: part of me actually worries that I haven't had an emotional temper tantrum over this year's story, the fact that I've never wasted any energy on hating it suggesting that there might not be enough "pizzazz" there to engage a reader. As I tell my students, if you're bored with what you're writing, your reader will be twice as bored...and I'm wondering if I've grown too bored with this year's attempt at NaNo'ing.

But whether I love, hate, or am indifferent toward it, this year's So-Called Novel is rapidly nearing The End...and ironically enough, I think part of me is a little sad about that. Although I have no desire (for now) to spend another month with this story, I find myself wishing the thing had put up more of a fight instead of placidly allowing itself to be written in relatively pain-free thousand-word chunks. If nothing else, writing a novel day by day by setting a timer, writing, and then clicking "Save" when the timer buzzes doesn't sound very exciting, and maybe that's what I wanted most out of NaNoWriMo: at least a good horror story or two about the actual writing, a kind of war story to share with other writers around the proverbial campfire.

Before I give up all hope, though, I should remind myself: a lot of emotional turmoil can happen between 40,000 and 50,000 words, so I shouldn't either congratulate nor commiserate with myself too soon.

So, which do you think is worse: hating a project you're working on, or feeling mildly indifferent toward it? What tricks or techniques do you have for dealing with either scenario?

Word-count: 40,886

Last line: Somehow it gave Alexa pleasure to know that Perkins was a fraud and to know that she and her dreams had ferreted out that fact before Paul could discover it in his old and musty books.


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