Fortunately, unfortunately: NaNoWriMo Edition

I obviously meant to get to this long before I did, foolishly thinking I’d have more time once NaNoWriMo was over.

*laughs over my naivete until I start crying instead because I’m thin and stretched like butter scraped over too much bread*

Anyway, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year. It’s the first time I’ve lost since my first year back in 2010, when I completed the draft but the story wasn’t 50,000 words long. 

It’s fine, I guess. I love NaNoWriMo with a fiery passion, but it was so hard this year. Usually I can power through bad writing – NaNoWriMo taught me that. I no longer get stuck forever just because I can’t come up with exactly the right word. Thanks to that first year, I can pick a word that’s close enough or write a sentence that says what it needs to, even if it does so baldly, and then I can say “good enough” and keep going.

I’m just burnt out. Not with writing in general. Really it’s work that’s got me feeling this way: it was one thing to do NaNoWriMo while going to school full time and working part time, but doing NaNoWriMo while working full time and working another job afterward is exhausting. I’m jealous of my free time, so when the writing doesn’t come easy, it doesn’t come at all.

(Except for the Chosen Grandma, but that’s another story.)


Then there’s the fact that I’ve also needed to focus on scholarship applications for the first time since, what, 2008? At which time, let’s face it, I really didn’t focus on scholarship apps as much as I should have anyway, because it stressed me out. I’m much more dedicated to it now.

But then there’s the story that was my main project for this year’s NaNo, which is what I really got schooled in last month.

I rebelled this year, which is largely why I don’t mind not reaching 50k. In addition to my usual 1500 words a week for the Chosen Grandma story, I’ve been trying to finish the current draft of my last novel, formerly known as The Book Man. And also currently known as The Book Man, even though that title no longer works, because I suck at titling things and don’t feel like changing it yet.

Anyway, I’ve been working on it almost nonstop since 2013, so there’s your first reason I’m feeling burnt out with this particular novel. I love my characters, but you really need to take a break between drafts, and I haven’t. Until this year, when I started taking breaks in the middle of the draft because I was burnt out from not taking breaks between prior drafts.

Only the further I went this month, the more I realized…it’s not pure burn-out that’s the problem. It’s that the story doesn’t work. At all.

I mean, I’m grateful to NaNoWriMo for finally allowing me to figure this out. And not in the back-of-the-mind, I-technically-know-but-I’m-going-to-forge-ahead-anyway-because-I’m-in-denial kind of way, but in the kind of way where it stares you down and forces you to realize unequivocally that the story needs a total overhaul.

Until this point, I’ve been too close to the story to realize that.

It should have been obvious from the beginning, really. But what do you want from me? I’m bad at plotting. Characters come first for me, almost always, and plot is an afterthought.

(Yes, yes, I know plot should stem from characters and their wants and needs, but that’s a post for another time.)

It would be fine if I wrote literary fiction, but no, I predominantly write fantasy. So even though I really, really, really didn’t want to leave this draft unfinished before taking a break, I’m going to. Calling it quits and leaving it the hell alone for at least six months. What’s the good of finishing the draft when I know the story doesn’t work? I may as well leave it, mull it over, rethink it, and then do hella brainstorming before I start back in on it.

It’ll be tough, though, because I know a large part of the problem is that some of the characters have no reason to be in the story. But at the same time I can’t imagine the story without them. Ah, me.

Alas, this is one instance where I know exactly what “kill your darlings” means.

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