For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I decided to go a different route. Instead of continuing Steam Palace, I decided to use a concept that I had been toying with for years. I wanted to focus on the story of this brilliant detective who’s completely incapacitated, but it turned into something more akin to my first couple NaNo stories, the 30 Days series. More action than mystery, more plot than characters.
First, the facts:
Final Title: Dead Air: An Archie Magnuson Mystery
56,937 words, my lowest output in 4 NaNo’s, but still a “winner.”
Actual days writing: 25
2,200 words/day, compared to something like 3,200 words/day last year
My goal was lower this year. I was aiming for 60K, so I timed my book accordingly. My 80K first draft last year swelled to 120K by the time I finished 3 revisions. So using the same math, my 56K book may wind up around 84K, not a bad size.
But overall, I’m just not satisfied. I think I know some of the main issues that I fought against this year: Note that most of this stuff I was aware of while I was writing, but I just turned off that damned inner editor and went with it.
- Not enough time spent planning/plotting. By the time I hit Act IV (of five), I was really lost. Usually this is the most fun part of the book to write, but for me it was a death march. I just plodded forward, forcing events instead of letting them happen.
- Not taking it seriously. Last year I knew I was writing a novel to publish. This year I was “experimenting” with a new genre. I don’t really think I loved writing Mystery. It’s a lot of work, a lot of detail, and pantsing this kind of thing just doesn’t work. I think I can make this work, but not under these constraints.
- Falling in love with my characters. I have a tendency to fall in love with certain types of characters (mostly female) and then they start to take over the story because I just want to write about them and give them larger roles than they probably deserve.
- Lack of Villainy. This problem plagues me. My villains just aren’t bad enough. Yeah he’s a bastard but he doesn’t really do that much bad stuff. I want to create someone the reader wants to throttle, not just be annoyed with.
- Distractions. Going to a 3-day con in the middle of NaNo was a bad idea (for NaNo…made a few industry contacts for Steam Palace, might post about it). Also, you know what really sucks? Getting sick. I picked up some kind of crud at the con and I’ve been sick ever since. It’s incredibly hard to write when you just want to go back to bed.
- Why? That’s really basic. I never really answered this. Why did anyone do anything they did aside from me wanting them to? What were their motivations? Backstories? And why should the reader care about any of it?
- Telling. Well, I’d been in full edit mode for a year, so switching back is hard. It took almost 3 days to just drop the editorial voice inside my head and just write. The problem with this is that so much crap comes out that it’s almost not worth it. Out of all the issues listed above, this is the one that really kills me. This is why if I do a revision, it will be a complete rewrite, just like I did with Steam Palace. Not a single line will remain. And it will take me longer than 25 days.
I’m not sure going forward that NaNoWriMo is the best way to draft a novel. Especially this year when I couldn’t devote as much time as I’d like to plotting and even writing it. But I guess so far I’ve only highlighted the negatives, so here are some positive things:
- I won! ‘Nuff said. Gimme my damn badge!
- I have a full draft of a new novel in a new genre.
- I took a risk. I’m not sure it will pay off in this case, but it’s something.
- Many good characters/potentially good characters.
- A couple interesting plot twists
- Potentially compelling conflicts.
- Lots of series potential. It only takes one book to sell a series.
So I guess I’m giving myself a mixed grade this year. So what will I do from here? Probably shelve it. I could also do a quick 1-2 week edit and throw it up on some sites to get feedback. But right now I really need to work on selling Steam Palace. I also have a few deadlines for conference submissions.
I hope everyone had a good NaNoWriMo, see you next year!