I’ve crossed the finish line and won NaNoWriMo 2017! Huzzah! That’s five years in a row now! I feel so proud of this achievement, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
There are a LOT of issues with my writing and around the 30k mark, I found myself having to push through with the writing. The only reason I was able to complete it was because I stopped caring. I just put my plot into motion and stopped thinking about the characters, the prose and the setting. Safe to say, it’s not my proudest work. It might actually my least favorite novel to date.
But before we go on further, let’s talk a little bit about what I wrote for NaNoWriMo this year. It’s a Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic novel set after a failed alien invasion. It follows the story of a group of people who hire out their services to retrieve valuables from areas that are occupied by the aliens left stranded on the planet.
It’s a fun idea, but I really dropped the ball when it came to the execution. Hence, despite actually “winning” NaNoWriMo, it was a bust for me.
I think a major reason why the story sucked was due to how late I decided on what to write for NaNoWriMo. I couldn’t pick what to write until the last week of October. There were three other ideas I was debating, including a rewrite of a novel I worked on last year. The other two ideas weren’t well fleshed out but I didn’t want to do a rewrite yet as I haven’t figure out how to fix my problems in that novel. So I ended up choosing this one by literally “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe”. Not the most brilliant way to pick, but I was running out of time.
The other reason why it sucked was basically because I had no clue what I was doing. It was a setting I wasn’t comfortable writing in and the genre shifted several times during the actual writing. I went from Military Sci-Fi to just Space Fantasy and back again several times. Were the main characters soldier types or were they just regular civilians forced into a tough time? Was this a Mass Effect type story, where the guns and the tech are explained or was this a Star Wars where most things are just hand-waved away? I never really settled on one decision. And at the end of the day, the writing suffered for it. It was a hodgepodge of ideas and characters that didn’t really gel together. I basically smashed together several ideas without figuring out how they fit with each other. The characters came from a video game idea, back when I was messing with game development and were kinda of like the Mass Effect crew meets the Firefly crew. And then I threw them into this story, assuming they fitted in, but they stuck out like a sore thumb.
To add to that, I was also experimenting a lot with this novel. It’s the first time I’ve written anything in a Sci-Fi setting. I wrote shorter chapters than I usually do, from my average 4k words per chapter to 2k, partly to combat my tendency to meander. I also planned out story arcs and seeded some of it into the chapters I wrote, with the hope that I might be able to turn it into a web novel. Turns out, not knowing what to write isn’t conducive in kicking a web novel off. Who’d have thunk? Everyone. Everyone knew that.
And remember when I said I was going to be self-aware of my own writing? It didn’t happen at first. In fact, for the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo I was my usual self, and then about the 25k word mark, it struck me like a truck. I looked at my writing and just saw white rooms and cringe at my sentences. Too many ‘he did this’, ‘she did that’. It felt bland and uninspired.
Maybe two months from now I’ll look back and realize it’s not as bad as I thought it was. God knows it has happened before. But I have a feeling this won’t be the case. And to be fair, the whole novel isn’t a total ruin, some aspects of the setting was fun to write about and there’s a least one character I’m pleased with, so that’s something, I guess?
I get the sense that my knowledge of the craft has outstripped my skill. It maybe that I’ve always written this badly but only now I keep spotting them, though rereading some of my older works, they didn’t feel this bad. I also feel like I’ve just reached the first step in what Ira Glass calls “the Gap” and boy does it feel depressing. A little over four years of writing and I’ve only reached the first step. Grand.
I’ve been thinking of ways on how to tackle this problem. I feel like I’ll need to expose myself to criticism to grow as a writer. And to be honest, that TERRIFIES me. It feels like I’m sharing a part of me with someone else, my thoughts are written out. Then again, aren’t I doing exactly that right now?
To be honest, writing a web novel was supposed to be part of it, but now that that has failed, I might just look into writing forums and reddit and seek out criticism there. Paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, hopefully I’ll improve bit by bit.
Honestly, this is both the best and the worst NaNoWriMo I’ve experienced. On one hand, the actual novel sucks, but on the other hand, it’s given me something to think about and made me realize how far I’m from where I want to be. All in all, I think it’s been well worth it to do NaNoWriMo this year, despite not having as much free time to do it as I’ve had.
So that’s my NaNoWriMo 2017 experience. If you participated, I would love to know how yours went for you. I hope you had a better experience than I did.