Since I bashed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last week, it’s only fair to write a positive post.
First, a confession. Up until my first NaNoWriMo, I suffered from a crippling affliction that many authors share—story infidelity.
I’m ashamed to admit that my writing process would invariably unfold the same way. Initially, I’d be super excited about a book concept. For weeks, I’d do nothing but worldbuild. Then I’d develop my characters and their backstories to the point that they felt like real people. I’d even have conversations with them (it’s one of many traits shared by writers and the mentally ill).
After all this prep, I’d gleefully skip to my computer, sit down, and write. And write. And write. Until I got to the 40% mark in my book. At that point, I’d slam into a brick wall. Writing stopped being fun… It became work.
My characters would start to annoy me. They were no longer exciting and compelling. I knew exactly where they were going and I didn’t care if they got there any more.
Suddenly, I’d find any excuse not to write. There would be an irresistible need to watch videos of cats falling on toddlers for hours…
Then, a new book concept would come to me. It would be so much sexier than the first idea. It boasted that it was a best-seller and spoke in an thick european accent that sent goosebumps across my skin.
I’d try to resist.
I must finish the first book, I’d tell myself. So what if sitting down to write it is as fun as getting a root canal. How can I be an author if I don’t finish this book?
But the characters from the second book would invade my dreams. They’d whisper their backstories to me while I was working on scenes from my first book. They’d flash me an enticing glimpse of their world. Soon, I’d fantasize about them and their exciting story arcs.
Not too long after that, I’d give into temptation. I’d shelve the first book and start worldbuilding the new story.
Rinse and repeat.
By the time I accepted my first NaNoWriMo challenge, my hard drive was filled with dozens of partially written manuscripts.
NaNoWriMo changed all that.
The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple. You must write 50,000 words in a novel or fail.
So that November, I sat my butt down in the chair and wrote. As anticipated, a brand new story idea started whispering seductively in my ear in mid-November. But this time, I couldn’t afford to be distracted. I refused to answer the phone. I ignored it’s texts. And when it invaded my dreams, I jotted down a few notes, and told it I’d get back to it later. Then I re-focused and kept writing.
Something really strange happened after I did that.
The story I was writing became interesting again. The magic and excitement swung back like a boomerang. And I finished.
Even though that NaNoWriMo novel may never see the light of day (see my earlier post), I finally learned how to write through the temptation. I was able to finished the next book. And the next.
NaNoWriMo cured me of my story infidelity and I’ll be forever grateful.
For a laugh check out Chuck Wendig’s blog for some off color NaNoWriMo tips (staying faithful to the story is number #9 on his list).
If you have time, check out my blog post on my recent interaction with an angsty fox.