Nanowrimo 2015: never too early for regrets

No, I’m not quitting my shitty YA werewolf project. I’m just realising a few things about where my storytelling interests lie, and how they lie together with my writing habits.

For instance: catching up with my best friend who has recently returned from a pretty awesome cross-Europe trip – for her PhD no less – I related how frustrating it was coming up with this werewolf story in the first place, having every single important plot point mapped out in a matter of minutes, and then not being able to write fast enough to match my on-the-spot planning. This project is, in all honesty, much more of a writing exercise than an actual story. I feel really unwilling to keep working on it – I haven’t worked on it at all today – because it’s turned into a process of trying to make it into something it’s not.

But hey, it took me three years to work that out with Tallulah, so six months for a throwaway YA project is definitely progress.

This story was supposed to be finished basically as soon as I came up with the idea. That’s why I was able to spend a whole day writing the first chapter without any hiccups: I was working from a place of complete clarity, because the plot was so basic and put together so fast that there was no room for complexity. It was basically me giving myself a writing prompt, only I’ve taken over 6 months to finish it. I’m not saying writing prompts can’t lead to full-blown stories eventually, or even immediately, but this one has taken so long to even get to the end of the first step that it’s kind of ruined the whole exercise. I almost went with an entirely new story for Nanowrimo for this very reason – not that I could put it into words at the time, but it was because I wanted something designed and intended to be written quickly and then abandoned just as quickly, and something that would test how solid of a story I could make it within a very narrow window of time. That’s what I keep hoping this project will become again, but I think I might just be too far past that point. I think I’ve been too far past it for about five months, honestly. Maybe I should have gone with the new idea.

Regardless, what this has taught me is that I enjoy writing exercises and need to do them more, but also that I actually love going the distance with a story. I’m pretty dead-set on my next project, one that’s going to require a lot of incredibly enjoyable research, and I’m looking forward to it so much that I might actually try and finish this Nano project early so I can get started on it. It’s also a story that I don’t really have a clear plot for, and much as I’ve been railing against that lately, proclaiming that if you don’t have a story then you shouldn’t try to force an idea into being one – because you can’t – that’s not the issue with this story. It is a story. Or rather, it’s an idea that wants to be a story, and just needs an opportunity to grow. Like a plant that needs watering, rather than a lump of coal you’re trying to grow into a bonsai. One of those things is not going to happen.

But the other one is and, thus, research. I won’t spoil anything – not that I can really claim anything I might share about my stories is a “spoiler” as nobody really cares about my stories except for me – but it’s going to be about witches, because witches are awesome. As for my shitty YA werewolf thing … I’ll keep at it. I really do want to finish Nanowrimo this year, and who knows, maybe the writing-exercise magic will return to me if I can discipline myself to be more precise. Maybe the big twist I threw at myself the other day made it too interesting. Maybe it’s not generic and contrived enough. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

But honestly, I think that sort of thinking has gotten in the way as well. It wasn’t about trying to be generic and predictable with my ideas; it was about allowing myself to be generic and predictable, allowing myself to rely on tropes and cliches. It wasn’t the end goal; it was a viable starting-point, and even if it never went beyond that, it wasn’t an exercise in being generic and preventing myself from being original. The only reason I really wanted to be generic was because it’s faster. It was supposed to be over fast. If an original idea would have been just as fast …

Well, who knows. I do like generic ideas. I just don’t think I could ever work with them exclusively, for a “proper” project. But for Nanowrimo? Definitely. And I think I can rediscover my enjoyment of them in the next few days.

I hope so anyway, because today has not been a good one for productivity. Here’s to tomorrow.

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