Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

NaNoWriMo is upon us now, once again. I've said (maybe not here) that I wouldn't be doing it this year, and that turned out to be a dirty stinking lie. Oh well. It was sincerely meant at the time, but two days before November something went "twing" in my head and an idea for a book, almost fully-formed, sprung out of my head and demanded I give it my best effort. And so I am.

As of last night I've been above or at "par" (1,667 words per day) every day of this month, which is A. a massive improvement over previous years, and B. there is no "B". And part of that I credit to NaNo's usual turbo-charging of my productivity: I work best when I have a clearly defined goal and a tight deadline to get it done in. Always have, probably always will.

The problem is that every time I finish NaNoWriMo, all that motive power simply collapses on me. This is, I understand, normal for a lot of people who participate in the event. They get their 50,000 words done (or not), they say "Okay, quick break and then I finish/revise this thing", and then a year later their work is still sitting in a drawer gathering dust.

This has happened to me. Four times, in fact. Let's revisit the ghosts of NaNos past, shall we?

- Hellscraper: A haunted house story set in a skyscraper. Can you tell by the title that I tried this in college? It's the only time I haven't finished NaNoWriMo successfully. I might revisit this one day, I certainly like some parts of it, but not until I can come up with something a bit more character-driven.

- Servant of the Fae: This was inspired by my wife's attempt to explain what the Anita Blake books are about. I didn't quite get it, and came away with the idea that Anita is being repeatedly gang-raped by the cast of a Hammer horror film. And I thought to myself, "Okay, so what if Anita gets shut of all the geasa and curses and ardeur shit futzing with her head, and the Anita from book one comes back... In that case, how many monsters are going to die in really painful ways?"

I tried to answer the question, but at the time I really didn't have the skills to do it satisfactorily. It's a complex story with a lot of POV trickery and it's not at all appropriate for pantsing. I am still working on it (promise!) and I fully intend to get it ready to send out to publishers. I can't not do that, because the bastard narrative is so insistent at this point that I really can't refuse to write it. It's just going to be awhile.

Feel free to "steal the idea", by the way. (How many writers actually worry about that?) I assure you that based on that story seed, you haven't the faintest fucking idea where I am with it right now.

- Neverland: I never really had a proper title for this, it was just Peter Pan seen through a very dark lens. I did finish a story that topped out at 50,000 words (and boy did it need filling in in the middle), but I don't think I'll ever revisit the idea, mostly because Peter Pan is an intellectual property death trap thanks to Disney and the original author's decision to leave the copyright to a charity. But also, there's a comic book version of the same fucking idea called Neverland which is currently in print, and which I'm eagerly waiting for someone to sue out of existence. (Not really, more power to them if they get away with it, but it would be an interesting case.) It's published by Zenescope, the same people who do the "dark cheesecake" versions of Alice in Wonderland.

It's fairly obvious.
- The Gentleman's Society of Unholy Abominations: This was last year's, which I've talked about before. Basically a monster mashup that fell apart when I realized the Wolfman isn't public domain. That doesn't make the story unworkable, but trying to fix the problem (badly) when you're halfway through writing a story really makes it unworkable. I did get a great word count on this one, something like 100,000 words in the end, but it was sort of a festering collapse of a book at that point and I couldn't bring myself to return to it.

Aside from not checking on intellectual property laws, you'll note that my main problem with these stories is that I haven't been planning the damn things properly. Which is why I'm going over Servant of the Fae with a fine-tooth comb, making sure I have a detailed outline (scene by scene if I can manage it) before I set pen to paper again.

And yet I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year, despite four previous failures of product. I suppose you might ask, "Is there something wrong with me?"

Well, no. Part of the fun of NaNoWriMo is that it is fun, a challenge that you set for yourself one month out of the year to just generate words without worrying too much about quality, at least for awhile. And even if all I generate is another spectacular failure of a novella, I have to ask: So what? I've been buried in outlining and brainstorming for so long that the need to write actual scenes and dialogue and descriptions and plot is overwhelming. The worst thing that could happen this month is that I improve my skills a little bit and end up chucking the result in a trashcan. Still a net win.

Forward, onward, and upward. Now if you'll excuse me, I've still got 40,000 more words to write.

No comments: