Creating the Mess, or the First 3 Days of #NaNoWriMo

This might just be my favorite picture ever.

This might just be my favorite picture ever.

“First I created the mess. Then I had to clean the mess up.” – Maryka Biaggio, author of Parlor Games

This morning I started listening the series of workshops from the Historical Novel Society’s 2013 conference that I purchased as audio files a few months back. That quote is one of the gems from the workshop about writing women in history. Ms. Biaggio was talking about her research process, but what she said can just as aptly be applied to the writing process.

It’s also pretty much how I feel about writing a first draft. You have to create the world, it’s characters, their conflicts and dialogue before you can polish it to make it something readable. I have told myself this over and over the last few days (well, actually the last few months, if you’ve been following my struggles with book 3 of Guinevere’s story).

So far NaNo has been bi-polar. We started out manic at over 5,000 words on the first day. Okay, chalk that up to the enthusiasm of a new book and the excitement all over the interwebs about NaNo. All I know is, by the end of day 1, it felt like I could write the whole novel in November. The book wanted out and it wanted out NOW!

Yesterday was still pretty productive, at nearly 2,500 words, some written in places as crazy as the hair salon, since it was a busy day. But for some reason, I hit a slump last night – like the “ready to chuck it all in the trash bin” kind. I started several scenes, only to leave them unfinished because I wasn’t sure how I’d use them in the end product. I broke the #1 rule of NaNoWriMo: don’t think, just write.

Today I decided to give my brain a break and do other things this morning like walking at the lake (yes, I’ve made my every other day exercise goal this week!) and just sitting and watching the leaves fall. It’s sad, but I can’t remember the last time I slowed down enough to do something like that.

Time came for one of our local write-ins. I went, full of enthusiasm and hope, but I couldn’t seem to get in the groove. I started and stopped a few scenes, but couldn’t block out the conversations around me and the truly terrible music piped in overhead, even with my iPod on loud. Finally, I gave up and went home.

Having only written something like 500 words, I felt like a failure. I even tweeted it. Then I drank half a bottle of wine and wallowed in self pity for a while. But then I saw a tweet by author Robin LaFevers (whose His Fair Assassin books I cannot recommend highly enough) saying she wrote 4,000 words today, a feat she rarely achieves. I congratulated her and she wrote back a very encouraging note. This inspired me to get off my duff and try again. Two hours later I had 1,400 more words, a few of which are the first truly beautiful lines I’ve written in this book. A few hours after that, I surpassed 10,000 total for the first three days.

(For those who haven’t realized it yet, I’m a wee bit competitive. I’m proud to report that as of the moment I hit publish on this, I was the second highest in word count in my region. Yes, I’m bragging. Ahem.)

I still have no idea how this mess of scenes is going to weave itself into a book, but you know what? I’ve gotten better about not worrying about that (note I didn’t say I’ve stopped worrying about it; I’m a work in progress). It always works out after a few weeks/months of editing. (This is my fourth book; you would think I’d know that by now, but apparently I don’t.) What matters right now is getting the words down, telling the story to myself, as it were.  I’m going to need all of you to remind me of this many times over the next month.

So, it was touch and go for a while, but Glastonbury lives. And it seems to have all of its fingers and toes and is starting to emit a healthy wail, now that I’ve stopped trying to control it. I think I was putting too much pressure on myself hoping for four 5,000+ word days in a row (wanted to pad my word count for week nights when the brain will be too fried to write) and when that didn’t happen according to plan, I got in my own way. Now my goal is back to what it should be. Reach 50,000 words this month with the best writing I can (anything above that is gravy) and fix it when I edit in January. I’m the only one expecting any more than that from me. 

Have you ever faced a similar struggle where you set yourself up for a fall? How did you resolve it? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo orROW80? How’s it going for you?