It started with a note in my journal on Monday the 7th:
I was thinking yesterday that I’ve made a wrong start with the novel. I should have started with an earlier scene and made the story more chronological and less flashback-y. This could be me feeding off chicken shit energy, starting to feel less brave. Perhaps what I need to do most is stay firm with the point in the story I have decided to tell it from and get this first draft completed.
On Tuesday I hadn’t let go of the thought and was still picking through it:
After having Sunday off from writing, Monday felt like a slog to try and regain not only word count, but the thread of the story. I have readjusted my daily word count so that the challenge can be written in 26 days, so Sundays are not writing days ~ these are things I couldn’t have accounted for before the challenge started. I definitely need that day of rest for my mental health. I don’t want to binge write. I know some people are up to 30,000 words by the beginning of the second week and I can only think that they are getting high on the adrenaline of smashing their word counts. I hope it works for them. Writing 30,000 words in six days would make me cray-cray.
By Wednesday I was admitting to myself my writing mood had changed since the high of the first week’s inspiration:
The novel is on my day 8 of writing and I’m struggling. It’s so hard to trust the process. I’m so glad it’s part of a challenge because I think I’d start to falter now if I was doing this off my own steam, and might walk away. Imagine!
As for the story, none of it is in order. I have to focus on the fact that it’s not about having 50,000 of a perfect draft at the end of November. It’s about getting 50,000 words down so that I can really understand the story I’m telling. I think in an ideal world (a non-NaNo month) I would want to get the first Act down on paper and then word process it and tinker with it until I found the right direction. But, of course, that is not the challenge that I’m currently undertaking.
My brain is trying to tell me to chicken out and that what I want most of all is to have a simple life, not a writing life. But if I take a step back and observe this thought I see it’s not true. It’s just fear of not being up to the challenge. The writing is hard this week and yet I am happy, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. I am happy that I have work that is engaging me and challenging me.
Do I have an attachment to writing in novel form? Not particularly, but I do want to write to make sense of life through language and story, and novels are one way of pursuing that. I am carrying so much baggage about my previous attempts and failures at novel writing that I think the ground can only be cleared to move forward by persevering with the white heat of this challenge.
By Thursday, me and my characters and still trying to plough our way through the malaise:
Some people have second week inspiration ~ soaring upwards. I definitely have the second week slump. I don’t have the characters’ motivations tight enough to drive us all towards the end of Act One.
At the beginning of the first week I picked up a thread and I managed to hold onto it throughout the story for 36 handwritten pages. That is some achievement. It seemed like I could write a rough draft of a novel from beginning to end with a clear emotional and motivational arc for the main character. It seemed like magic. Stopping on Sunday gave me some rest and critical distance, but that distance also meant that I lost that thread. I picked up a thread that was like it, but it wasn’t exactly the same and that made all the difference.
If I want to carry on writing this week (and I do) then I’m going to have accept the limitations of my ability and my process. I’m going to have to dig into the back story to get back that thread of drive and motivation, both for me and for my characters.
On Friday I am starting to draw parallels with the blocks I’m facing now and the ones I’ve faced with novel writing in the past:
Yesterday I left the forward movement of the plot and just went for back story. I think this is what happened in my NaNoWriMo 2007 (the only time I’ve ever tried the challenge before). Back then, even though I kept on writing and refused to get lost in writer’s block, I deemed myself a failure for taking a detour to find my inspiration again.
I’m not sure if I’m doing this challenge ‘properly’ now so much of my daily writing is plotting and back story. I’ve gone rogue. But I’ve given myself a challenge to write 50, 000 words towards my novel in November and that’s what I’m going to deliver to myself. Working so quickly is forcing me to blast through problems of process and find the method of novel writing that suits me. I just need to shake off that habitual feeling of guilt. I can’t drill down further into my feelings about this until I recover from this sneaking feeling of disappointment and depletion. I’m just going to keep on pouring myself into the daily writing and try and stay buoyed by the feeling of connection I experience when I’m writing.
It’s taken a little while to edit these journal pages and to feel a little distance from the raw feelings before I felt comfortable to share them. But I wanted to share this to let you know that struggling with a project after the initial excitement is normal; to need to change parameters to suit your needs is normal too. I wanted to share these words to let you know this. I wanted to share these words to let me know this too.
And in case you’re wondering? Yes, I’m still writing.