So, I decided to quit NaNoWriMo today.
This is my third year seriously attempting it (after winning in 2008 and 2009 and making false starts in 2010 and 2011). I planned for most of October to do it, but after trying to plan one idea I had and rereading everything I could find about outlining and plot structure and the like, I still started November with nothing but a vague handful of ideas about where I was going.
Due to the fact that I was starting off with a horrible disadvantage, I gave myself permission to include my plotting-words in the word count. Which helped a lot.
So, good news: I now have 27,000 words, a fair portion of which is story, and most of the rest of which is plot plans for that same story.
For me, this is actually huge. For a couple of years now my writing life has been stalling as I've tried to recover from burnout, and as I've held off committing to 'lesser' projects as I waited for the 'perfect' idea. Hey, I'd even settle for the almost-perfect idea. I considered myself pretty lax. I didn't need to be Lord of the Rings Tolkien yet, I just needed to be The Hobbit Tolkien. Deal, subconscious?
NaNoWriMo got me writing again. It gave me the beginning of a story that I feel like I can commit to. By forcing my writer-brain to come up with something, anything, my writer-brain discovered it could actually come up with something good. Under pressure, no less.
But now, hopelessly behind as I am and with many, many questions about my story still unanswered (What does my main villain even want, anyway?), I think I've discovered the best way to invest in this story.
And getting to 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th seems like a pretty poor investment in comparison.
I'm definitely a planner when it comes to stories. Sure, there are some things about my story that I like to discover as I write, but in the majority of cases I like to know where I'm headed. I'm not good at making a story up on the fly. Especially a novel-length story. I've heard all the Wrimo rhetoric for years about how you can always fix it later, but sometimes, you just can't. And sometimes the bad version of the story inadvertently gets stuck in your head, so that even if the problems can be fixed, you no longer care to try. Call me a mystic if you will, worrying about losing the 'magic' of the story. I don't think it's mysticism. I think it's an honest assessment of the way my overly-impressionable mind frequently creates roadblocks for me. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect my first drafts to be perfect. But I expect them to have the soul of what I'm trying to say. I'm not sure you can edit soul into a novel that never had it in the first place.
I want to breathe life into the story. I don't want to settle for making as many mud pies as I can in the mud wallow of ideas.
Now, putting words on paper is useful, and reaching for a goal even when it's difficult is an admirable thing. There is a significant part of me that wants to reach that magic number of 50,000, to say I won. But I've burned myself out before. Repeatedly, in fact -- refusing to listen to the warning signs until I'd drained myself of every last drop of motivation to write. That ultimate burnout lasted for three years. I'm just now coming out of that. I'm a fool if I jeopardize this rediscovered creativity for a number.
Because if I stop here, I've won what's most important.
(And that, friends, is the slightly-melodramatic version of why I'm quitting NaNo.)
(Instead of feeling sorry for me, think how happy I am finally getting to read all these books I got from the library!)