Nano 2012: Not with a Bang


Like most of my efforts, NaNoWriMo 2012 began with the flash and intensity of cannon fire. The first thirty thousand words flew by. But then, gravity kicked in. Life interceded. Other ideas clouded the trajectory. And before I knew it, my promising young thought comet had stalled in midair.

It’s a common problem, or so I’ve heard. Me, I’ve only done this twice. The first time, I was working 80+ hours a week as a hospital administrator with cruel hours, a poor diet and lots of drama. That first [and consequently shelved] manuscript was a perfect reflection of my lifestyle at the time: complicated and overworked, while somehow managing to seem rough at the same time.

This year, I live on an island in the middle of the Caribbean sea. Well, more the deep end than the middle, actually. In spite of my somewhat calm surroundings, I find myself wanting to write complex scenes rife with drama and suspense. But this time, it wasn’t the plot, but the characters that started giving me grief.

It wasn’t until nine chapters in that I realized I didn’t really like my protagonist, or believe in her. I also kind of hated her love interest, because he was modeled too closely after a guy I dated when I was a teenager. (Who broke my heart, come to think of it, and maybe that’s why it’s a bad idea to “write what you know” in all respects.) It’s hard enough to push through and write scenes when you aren’t 100% sure where they’re going. But it’s a damn sight worse writing scenes which feature people you don’t really care about. Especially in a murder mystery, when the reader is supposed to be rooting for these people to survive.

Anyway, the digression was unplanned, but there it is. At some point, I realized that plotting out my story as I was doing would eventually cause more harm than good. And why spoil a fabulous idea? It’s like buying a gorgeous hillside mansion and then painting it Chartreuse. Eyesore, I think that’s what it’s called. Some stories can end up like that, only they’re “mindsores.” Uninhabitable, and therefore condemned.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is… it’s important to recognize when you’re hacking away in the wrong direction. It’s important to know your strengths, to believe you can build something great. But it’s also important to know when to stop, before you destroy something that could be worthwhile in the future. Of course, that’s never the whole story, is it?

How is everyone else’s post-Nano triumph / remorse going?