False Start on NaNoWriMo 2011

Photo image copyright by Meredith Ann Rutter

For a few days in November, world-renowned sand sculptors worked their magic at the second annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master sand-sculpting competition in Sarasota, FL. Talk about attention to detail. The sculptors had to keep the sand just the right amount of moist during sculpting and had to wield just the right attiudes of angle with their trowels, even as they had to respond with aplomb to curious onlookers’ questions. I was aware of the preplanning they all had to do, too, to consider what would please both the public and the judges and still not be impossible to create in the time allotted.

You’ve heard the term “miserable failure.” That would have been a fallen sand sculpture when there was no time left to repair or begin again. And, changing the subject to writing, the term could be applied to my experience with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this past November. I didn’t meet the 50,000-word goal that would declare me a winner, as I did in 2009 and 2010. I wrote only 8,047 words. Nevertheless, I’m a satisfied failure. Here’s why:

  • I decided to finish the revision effort on the fourth draft of my first novel before turning to starting the first draft of a third novel. (Makes you think you need to be good with arithmetic, doesn’t it? Picture a sculptor obsessively repairing an earlier piece before starting a new piece.) This decision resulted in my not starting NaNoWriMo on schedule (Nov. 1), but on November 11. Yikes.
  • I decided not to start drafting a third book in the series I’m already working on. Since I haven’t sought an agent yet, I thought it would be wiser to begin a novel that had nothing to do with the series I’d begun. What if I can’t interest an agent in the series? Then my work on yet a third book in it might just go to waste. So I challenged myself to think outside the series box. This added further delay as I made several false starts.
  • I spent days (uncounted) wracking my brain for a good plot idea, for a good character idea, for a good anything. Finally I committed to a certain thought-seedling and began typing. The first scene flowed through my fingertips as though it had been waiting forever for release. Yeah! The second scene did almost as well. Around the third or fourth scene I realized I had no fix yet on what I was doing with this novel.
  • More research, more thinking, more procrastinating. Finally, I got the message from my inner me that I had started working on a deeper story than I’d anticipated. I relaxed and decided (now probably around Nov. 20) that I couldn’t possibly finish drafting this particular novel in the next ten days, actually five days, since the month was ending short as well as having started short, due to Thanksgiving plus vacation plans. I let myself off the timeline-hook.

So, why am I satisfied? I’m grateful I got any writing done at all, given the gyrations my inner writer was going through. When I reread the portions I did write, I think they’re definitely on to something and read like a good book. I look forward to working on this one slowly and lovingly over time, wherever it’s going to lead. I never would have started this particular novel if I hadn’t entered and given NaNoWriMo 2011 a chance to act on me. Sand sculptors at this year’s Siesta Key Classic didn’t have that luxury. Happily, they all made deadline and gave their fans much to rave about.

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2 Responses to False Start on NaNoWriMo 2011

  1. Jeff Winbush says:

    Hi, Meredith. Just wanted to let you know I finally got around to adding your site to my blogroll. Better late than never. Actually, I came across your site while checking my name on Bing (I have NO shame!) and saw where you mentioned me.

    Thanks for the shout-out, but one small correction. I was in the Air Force, not the Marines. No disrespect to them, but I never wanted to learn how to choke trees and kill rocks like a Marine.

    By the way, I liked your Stephen King post. I did an article about him many years ago when he was touring on a motorcycle and I met him backstage. This was before his near-fatal accident which left him with lingering injuries, depression and in such a state he wrote some of his worst books like Dreamcatcher. He’s the writer not everyone likes, but everyone knows enough about to have formed an opinion of.

    Oh, and are you a member of Absolute Write? If you’re not, as a writer and lover of books you might find something about it worth checking out. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/

  2. Great to hear from you, Jeff, and thank you for adding Yours In Books to your blogroll. I’ve corrected that embarrassing mistake (and had a good laugh over your description…). Thanks, too, for the referral to Absolute Write, which I wasn’t familiar with but have now joined. Looks terrific!

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