Yeah, NaNoWriMo fizzled out on me this year.

I got to about half way through the month before I could no longer avoid the lumbering grey metafauna dancing a jig in the middle of the room. I was putting down words just for the sake of putting them down. I’d slipped out of Bad First Draft and right into Incoherent Rambling Mess. Time to call it quits, at least if I actually want to finish this project properly at some stage, which I very much do.

Plus I put aside editing an early draft manuscript so as to focus on NaNo new words, but my heart still lay with the other manuscript (coincidently one born from NaNo a couple of years ago). I’ve written a stack of new words this past November, just only a small percentage of them on the NaNo project.

So I called it. Not this year. But gee it’s fun, even when it all falls apart.

So what went wrong? You know, considering I’m supposedly the Queen of Bad First Drafts and NaNo entirely suits my style of writing, which is to vomit everything up onto the page in the first instance, before doing the really hard work of editing, rewriting, redrafting and polishing after?

Well, I actually do more thinking ahead of the writing than I otherwise let on. I was once a complete pantser. Never planned a thing. Just put words to the page and let it go, see where it went. Which sometimes worked… and sometimes ended up in half a million words with no end in sight and a structure one might loosely describe as huh wot?

Then I started trying to write novels that might actually come in complete at under 100k one day and actually resembled a story with an satisfying ending. For that, it turned out, I needed to do me some planning.

Still pretty loose. I’m hardly a pin-cards-on-the-wall type girl. But I need to know generally where the thing is aiming overall, you know, the big climax, and I need to see in more detail at least one chapter beyond the one I’m writing, and I tend to do a load of thinking. Just thinking. Daydreaming. Every spare moment, in the shower, while walking, while driving the kids in the car and desperately hunting for any which way to block out whatever latest high pitched poppy novelty song my 5 year old is currently obsessing about and which has played a dozen times this trip alone.

The problem with NaNo for me this year was I really hadn’t done that thinking. Mentally I was still grey-matter deep in the other project. Oh, I’d made a stab at it, set aside time and tried to broadly outline the NaNo project, even got myself a whiteboard that looked like this:

My whiteboard

But when I was standing on a train platform waiting for delayed public transport, or walking to the office of the day job, or going slowly mad from novelty pop songs in the car, all that idle thinking time that any day, even the busiest brings, the story I was thinking about was…

Not this one. It was the other one.

And without that ongoing pondering, the idle daydreaming, the everyday thinking in between essential tasks, it was a project going nowhere. Entirely stale, every bit forced, and mostly generic. Not showing any signs of me, of being my story, of something only I could have written.

That’s the death knell of any story right there, I reckon. Every writer is unique and their writing has to be their own, or else it’s just going to be a derivative jumble of words that inspire no emotion whatsoever.

Thing is, I really like this project. I wrote 30k words at the beginning of the year on it and it really works for me, I have a passion for it. So I didn’t just want to force 50k out that clearly wasn’t working and meant nothing and destroyed the whole thing. I need to wait until I can think about it. Until I can devote that everyday thinking time to it.

There’s a lot to be said for ongoing pondering and idle daydreaming.

So I called it about half way through the month, went back to the other project, and have been going gangbusters on it since. Because there’s nothing like having other priorities you feel like you should be writing to make a second priority project take off 🙂