I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2012 and to date, it is the only year I have ever won it. Last year I think I got a little over 10k with some short stories and the year before that was even worse with me trying to continue with an existing novel. I hadn’t intended to take part this year but I got talked into it and I had been wanting to try something new for a while. And so I signed up with Paper Faces, my re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera.
I came up with the idea about a year ago and I’ve been keen to work on it for months but there’s always that fear when you’ve built something up in your mind and you’re worried that you’re not going to be able to deliver on it. I can’t say that those fears have abated any but NaNoWriMo is about working through those fears and getting the bare bones of a novel that you can then mold into something that actually resembles your original idea.
I’m currently on target with my word count at 16,812 words having only under-performed on two days (but thankfully I had built up a bit of a buffer on my other days which meant I haven’t fallen behind as yet). The one problem I am currently struggling with at the moment is direction. You’d think that basing it on a plot that already exists would mean that it was already planned to a good enough degree to just jump straight into it. This is incorrect. I am having some regrets. I did very, very basic planning in as much as I figured out my characters and I had several scenes in mind but no idea how I was going to get to them. I prefer this way of working because I’ve found that if I plan things too much, I grow bored of it and it shows in the writing. But when I have no planning whatsoever, it feels like I am just meandering around a lot and is making me slightly despondent towards the story.
When you have over 16k worth of words and have barely introduced all your characters and the actual main plot of the story, it makes you wonder just what the point is in trying to do it in the first place. Is a 50k novel full of pointless passages and droll dialogue worth more than having not done it at all? At the end of every writing sessions, I wonder if I’ve actually progressed the story in any way and while the answer ultimately has to be yes, I feel like there are much quicker ways to go about it. But is that the point of NaNoWriMo? Arguably no. It’s about getting the words down, however they come. It’s about getting into the habit of writing every day, of setting yourself goals and feeling a sense of achievement. For this reason, I love NaNo. But I can’t help but think this story is not worth continuing at the rate I am going.
I’ve always been a writer who has been more attached to characters than plot and this is showing once again with what I have so far. All the parts I am most satisfied with are the exchanges with my characters and a lot of these exchanges probably wouldn’t even make it into a final draft. But it’s nice that they appear to have found their voices and their own personalities, so much so that two of them have fallen into some awkward teenage flirting pattern which hadn’t been my intention at the beginning but seems to be working so I’ll run with it. I know where I want to go with the plot but I just seem to be struggling to have it fall into place.
How do you keep on track with a NaNo project? Do you even try? Or do you just let it go where it takes you, even if it means you write thousands of words of nothing?