At the beginning of this month, I had intended to write a blog post every day. I wanted to talk about the process of writing during National Novel Writing Month, all the steps on the way to completing a fifty-thousand word challenge. I was going to have a grand time doing it.
Now, it’s almost midnight, very late in in the month. I’m losing the challenge by too large a margin to even dream of making it up in the next two days, and I wish more that I had posted every day.
As much as writers talk about how to win this contest, it might have been useful to see what it looks like to lose.
I spent the better part of two years mapping out the story I wanted to write. The entire plot is laid out on my wall in ten different colors of sticky notes, with a green piece of yarn connecting them all to remind me of the order. It’s a mess and it’s beautiful. I’ve looked at it every day, added to it in fits and starts, enjoyed just having it hanging there. When the first of November rolled around, I was sure I knew what to write.
I started at midnight on Halloween, as I always do.
I like midnights. There’s a brilliance to them that has less to do with starlight and the overnight chill and more to do with heartbeats and drumbeats and the things we do to fill the dark. I like the excitement of staying up too late, the space that I have to shape things before sunlight reveals the exact shape of them. It’s just a romantic notion, and I know other people would rather get up with the sun and revel in the daylight.
But this year, I had three thousand words before those people even woke up, and that’s how I like to kick off NaNoWriMo. (Yeah, I’m winking at you…)
It wasn’t until the second day that I started to feel how poorly I understood my characters. I had given them all names and ages and jobs, but I couldn’t say more about them, and within a few thousand words, I could feel it. I was trying to carve out a specific story with some very blunt tools.
I only stayed ahead of schedule for a third day, and then I started to fall behind a little at a time. Continue reading