NaNoWriMo 2013 Retrospective

I’m back! And I’m a Winner!

What an…interesting month it was for me. I’m not going to lie – it was hard(!) – which was disappointing after the phenomenally positive experience I had in April and July for Camp.

This novel is also a mess (even more so than my NaNo novel from last November) – which is frustrating because I know I’m capable of writing something coherent. I’m supposed to be getting better, after all. Not worse!

During week two, I took a break writing my main character’s viewpoint and did some flashback scenes for another character. And I really like that character. A lot. What I tried to do was have the two story lines converge toward the end of the book – the main character being a linear timeline in the present while the secondary viewpoint is a series of flashbacks leading up to that character’s present time when the two characters finally have a showdown at the end. I still think it’s a cool idea and it could work but I didn’t even get close to having it ‘work’ here. Just figuring out how the main character was going to get from A to B was struggle enough (PS I didn’t figure it out).

My first problem was that I only gave myself a month to think about it. I was going to work on a novel I had already started back in August, but I changed my mind in favor of doing something ‘new.’ Bad idea. I really had too many ‘what is my character going to do now?’ moments.

My second problem seems to be that I might enjoy writing male characters more than females. Given that my protagonist is female…I struggled nearly everyday to write something interesting. My first instinct is to write female protagonists. I don’t know why that is – maybe because, being female myself, I think I know what a girl would say or do. It’s familiar and seemingly easier. But men and boys just have a swagger that female characters…don’t. They’re more fun to write. I suppose that’s a failure on my part to write engaging female characters.

So overall, I don’t feel like this NaNo was a success even though I ‘won.’ I am proud of myself for not giving up -because there were days when I really wanted to.

On a positive note, I had Writing group earlier in the month and loved it. I wrote a scene for my NaNoWriMo novel specifically to share with the group and it turned out pretty well. We’re still talking about a first draft here so there were some things I wasn’t happy with, but I am a perfectionist so I’m never completely satisfied. As I was listening to the others reading their selections I kept wishing that I could write as well as them. While I was reading mine (which was SO much easier this time), I realized that I enjoyed reading my writing, too. And maybe, just maybe, I’m doing alright at this whole writing thing…

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Fear

Fear kept me from writing for a very long time.

It was a fear of failure.

I had a bad writing experience as a child and I was so disappointed in myself that I gave up. I didn’t understand the creative process. I didn’t understand that you have more than one shot to get it right (this is especially true with writing). Now I know better. It doesn’t bring back those lost years but I can now disregard that tiny voice that says I’m no good.

Another fear that I’m still dealing with is sharing my work. I don’t know what it is that terrifies me so much…

Criticism? Not really – I kind of already know what’s wrong with my stuff. The adage that you are your own worst critic is definitely true for me. I actually like feedback – it gives me a good chuckle sometimes.

I think owning my writing is what I’m really afraid of – claiming something imperfect. Because I am a serial perfectionist.

When I talk about fear, I’m not talking about butterflies-in-your-stomach-nervousness level fear. I’m talking about voice-shaking-heart-exploding-from-your-chest-hyperventilation level fear.

For my writing group this last week, I had been preparing myself to pass my writing sample around and have it read silently. I was pretty comfortable with that (read: still a little nervous about it). I hadn’t made any suggestions about our method of sharing – I hadn’t wanted anyone to feel uncomfortable (read: I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable) . So, that’s what I was prepared for, psychologically – having other people read my work to themselves. You can imagine my panic when I went to writing group and it was suggested that we read our stuff aloud

Like, MAJOR panic, people.

And I had to. My writing group ladies (very politely) wouldn’t take no for an answer. And truthfully, I didn’t want to say no…

Alright, I wanted to, but I knew it would be good for me so I sucked it up…Also, I didn’t want to be the only person who refused, making myself look like a child throwing a temper tantrum.

And you know what? I love them for not letting me wriggle out of it. And I love myself for being brave despite how I was feeling on the inside. I can’t tell you how much anxiety I had as I was reading. It was very difficult. I know it’s just reading – I read aloud all the time to my children and it’s fun…When it’s your own stuff it’s different. I know that doesn’t seem rational, but that’s how it is – I can’t explain it, even to myself.

The wonderful women in my writing group were so supportive – it was just a great experience and I really enjoyed the whole night – despite how hard it was. I know it will still be hard next time, but I’m hoping it will be a little less hard.

It’s a fear I’d like to overcome someday. That probably won’t happen before the next writer’s group meeting, but you never know…

Stacy sews her own destruction…

Tonight is my first official writing group meeting. A writing group that I started.

And I’m terrified.

Terrified to the point of feeling absolutely paralyzed by the simple task of choosing a writing sample to share.

I’ve known for a month that I needed to have something to take tonight, but have I prepared anything? No. Well, I mean, I have a whole novel to choose from and some 10k words on my latest project as well.

Aside from my recent computer troubles (I was able to retrieve my second file this morning – thank you safe mode), I feel like I’m forcing my work on people who are not my audience. And it’s a first draft, so, you know, it’s rough and has a lot of problems and I feel too distracted to do editing. You’d think that with 100k words to choose from I could come up with a 2,500 or less selection…But it seems like an impossible feat.

Sharing unpolished work takes a lot of courage. And trust.

I’m not feeling courageous and trusting today.

My husband tells me that the content of my writing doesn’t matter as long as the writing is done well. That I’m trying to help people be better writers so all that really matters is technique. And that I need to be confident because I’m a leader now whether I want to be or not.

And I would add that maybe I should put away my ego because this writing group has never been about me.

I hate his pep talks…they’re frustratingly helpful…

I’ll come up with something by the end of the day, I’m sure.

‘Last minute awesome’ is my middle name.