Monday, November 3, 2014

NaNoWriMo: A pep-talk (or, um, pep-write)

I'm three days into NaNoWriMo and I'm about to cross 5,000 words. I'm more or less on schedule to hit 50,000 words by November 30th. The question I find myself wondering now, however is "at what cost?"

My story, so far, sucks. Not the humble-brag "oh it sucks, but I expect you to tell me it's actually good" sucks; an actual, flat-out, I'm-embarrassed-to-say-I-wrote-this kind of sucks. That's okay. It's a rough draft of words coming out of my brain at an almost free-association level of depth and speed. I expect it to suck. I'm not worried about it sucking. I'm confident I can turn "sucks" into "rocks" (or, maybe more realistically, "sucks less") during revision.

What I hadn't counted on when I laid out my plan was how fucking boring my little novel was going to be. In writing these first almost-5,000 words, I have seen the seams, the infrastructure lurking beneath the illusion. I do a fairly decent job of hiding those seams in my blog, but in my novel, there is absolutely no safeguard there: someone reading my draft is, very clearly, reading the work of a nerd obsessing over his nerd-hobby. I can't imagine anyone wanting to read more than a few pages of this before putting it down. I don't even want to read more than a few pages of this without putting it down.

This is a unique problem for me. My tolerance for boredom is quite low, typically. But writing about role-playing games creates an odd little paradox within me. I can see that my novel is objectively boring, yet I can still write all goddam day about it. There is literally nothing else in the world I can do that about. Crazy.

I set out with a simple goal: write a 50,000 word novel, as quickly and consistently as I can. Now I find myself under the effects of "Careful What You Wish For" syndrome. There's little doubt in my mind I can do this. I'm just not sure I'm going to be proud of the product. The answer to that, of course, is "Being proud of the product isn't the goal, is it, Ed? FINISHING the product is the goal."

Because that's the one thing I keep coming back to. In all my professional, personal, and academic experience as a writer, I've discovered this: successful writers and talented writers are not the same thing. There are literally millions of people on this planet with ideas for The Great American Novel in their heads. Ideas, like talk, are cheap. Work is valuable. That, to me, is what NaNoWriMo is all about. It's about getting away from the "I need to have it just perfect" cliche of the amateur writer and actually putting something down on paper (or typed on screen, I suppose). You want to know why so much crap sells? Because crap is real. You can't publish a good idea; only the book that comes from it.

So if you, Dear Reader, like me, are struggling right now with just how horrible your writing is, remember this: anybody can write well. It takes a real writer to write shitty.

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