My 1200 Word NaNoWriMo 2023

Full confession: I didn’t have a real NaNoWriMo goal. I was just hoping to get more than a few pages of new words done over an entire [cussing] month!

Some months back I stalled on my WIP novel. I stalled because I wasn’t happy with where it was going. I had a plot outline but it wasn’t inspiring. It didn’t even hit the key points required by my genre. It just wasn’t a complete story. I almost let it die. If not for the promise of the opening chapters I would have.

Eventually in an act of mild desperation, I phoned it in: I came up with a workable genre plot. The thinking was that I’ll follow that to get to the end of the first draft, look at the story as a whole and with the perspective of at least having a finished draft, elevate it to something I could be proud of.

That worked for a bit. I got a couple of good chapters for the setup, moved the plot forward. I wrote a few scenes I actually like and then I ran smack into the most generic part of the generic plot, and I couldn’t do it. The outline was right there on one side of my split screen, and the text on the other. Except that text was the digital equivalent of a blank page, or more correctly that stack of crumpled paper in the trash can beside a writing desk. False starts, lots of blank space. A few lines written, deleted. Earlier lines revised, tweaked, all waiting for my muse to kick in. Except my muse is wiser than me and wasn’t playing along. They sat up on a big thick branch of an oak tree, watching me wallow in my little mud puddle, wondering when I was going to stop playing around and come up to their level.

Then November ended. The writers I follow were posting their progress for the month, from a “mere” 2,500 words to 50-60K. I didn’t really wish I had written half a bazillion words in some spurt of creativity, but I sure as hell wished I had my story on a track I was enthusiastic about. Then someone posted a great quote:

Anybody who writes a book is an optimist. First of all, they think they’re going to finish it. Second, they think somebody’s going to publish it. Third, they think somebody’s going to read it. Fourth, they think somebody’s going to like it. How optimistic is that?

Margaret Atwood

Well, I thought, I still have every intention of finishing it! So I started branching the plot. Version 1 is my unenthusiastic generic genre plot. Let’s look at a version 2… plausible, but there’s this branch in that road. Fine take both, lets sketch out versions 2.1 and 2.2. We’ll go as deep as we need to in every variant and figure it out later.

And there it was. Version 2.1, informed by bits from versions 1 and 2.2. Something that I’m willing to claim as mine. I don’t expect to be winning any awards with this one (unless I accidentally sign up for one of those award scams where you effectively pay a bunch of money for some overpriced stickers that don’t mean anything to anyone except your fellow suckers).

I still have a little bit of work to finish the revised plot, but when that’s done I feel like I’ll finally be able to get back to writing the damn story. Optimistically, first draft by the end of the year. Then onto the second draft. There’s already a long list of things I want to do to raise the bar. I expect the second and hopefully final draft will be as challenging as the first, just in a very different way. This means months of work before it even gets to the story edit stage.

But I will finish it. I am definitely an optimist!