NaNoWriMo 2017 came and went, and I needed a few days to process my feelings about it. Feelings, dreaded feelings. 🙂
If you remember, after the first official week, I blogged my experience thus far (thumbs up!) thinking I’d blog at the end of every week, but I quickly realized that was a foolish plan.
I had the space to write roughly 2 hours a day Monday to Friday, though that became pretty loose—some days I wasn’t able to get to it due to the general chaos of life—or <cough> because I had a 24-hour fling with a hot short story I wanted to meet a deadline on, but then I doubled my output on NaNoWriMo the next day to catch up.
So, most weeks my output hovered at about 5,000 words. I explored one facet of my story pretty deeply, and really enjoyed where it went. When I was first plotting my book, I had no idea that the ghost story angle would become so prominent, but it did, and I’m really glad I cut myself loose and went there. I think it gave the book more emotional depth. (This is not really a spoiler: Cokie’s uncle, also a cop, begins visiting as a ghost after he’s shot in the line of duty.) Not that the normal teen angst part of the book (bullying drama and prom date drama) isn’t worthy, it is, but I wanted to pull the camera lens out further, if you will—using some film terminology here—to create a larger picture, and invite the reader further into Cokie’s world: how do the dynamics of her family affect her life and her thinking? Also, I really, REALLY love Japanese ghost stories and this is me exploring the modern American-Japanese ghost story idea. I think it’s coming out really interesting so far.
I also gave her a buddy, a little neighborhood boy to babysit. It’s based very loosely on my own experience providing childcare for a neighbor’s autistic boy, who was just delightful, but also needed some pretty intense oversight at times to keep him safe. This angle of the story fits Cokie’s desire to someday grow up to be someone who keeps people safe (a police officer), but it also surprises her in that she develops a really strong, meaningful, yet unexpected relationship. Like, she never wanted to be a mom, nor will she, but she feels really strongly about her protective role for her new buddy, and feels like she might be a successful police officer someday.
I also researched some pretty neat things for my story, and the most fun reference I enjoyed was watching Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams—a spooky film that’s really a collection of shorter films, and most of them had a supernatural element, and totally scratched my itch for Japanese ghost stories.
And I crowd-sourced some questions related to Japanese culture on Facebook and Twitter. I’m very grateful to those who’ve answered so far.
Things were going fairly well, until Wednesday Nov 29, when I hit the wall. I had exhausted the part of my outline that was well thought-out, then found myself in sketchy territory. I wanted to write about something that I hadn’t researched well enough yet, and my lack of preparation showed. I didn’t want to waste my time writing words that I’d end up tossing. I was stuck, so I literally just stopped.
At this point, I’d only scratched the surface of my story, and was only about 27.5K words in. I was far from having a first draft completed like I wanted to, and, well, felt demoralized. I decided to take a break, and end NaNoWriMo a few days early. I then moved on to some short stories I was revising. At least I was still productive in some way, but I felt bad about where I’d landed with my book. Add the noise of people shouting online about their writing successes and how fast they write, well, the temptation to compare yourself to others and feel bad about yourself is very strong. And something you should never, ever do.
I realized after a few days that feeling demoralized about NaNoWriMo was a fleeting emotional state brought on by exhaustion and it wasn’t serving me—completing my first draft during NaNoWriMo was a super unrealistic expectation. The story is way more complicated and bigger than anything I’ve ever worked on, with some subplots and multiple parallel timelines. That stuff is hard, yo! And it’s going to take time.
Am I still proud of what I’ve done? EFF YEAH. Writing just shy of 28,00 words in a month, well, that’s awesome, actually. After having a year wracked with difficulties (remodeling a home gutted by water damage and a whole host of other problems, plus downsizing and moving) the fact that I dramatically stepped up my writing this November is huge. While I don’t believe that you should save your writing goals for NaNoWriMo—you should write as much as you can all year—the timing of recommitting to my writing goals happened to coincide with NaNoWriMo, and I wanted to harness the energy of the zeitgeist to get moving.
And I did.
Soon, I’ll be a lot busier at my day job, but I’m committed to getting my first draft done by winter’s end. That’s actually still pretty fast; I mean, it’s so fast that George R. R. Martin is probably crying right about now. (Don’t ever compare yourself to me, Georgie. It’s a slippery slope.)
Release date? Maybe next October, or maybe the spring after. Slower than initially planned, but it’ll be worth the wait.
Stay tuned—I’ll be blogging more about the book as it progresses. Happy Holidays!