A Pre-NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge

This weekend I had writing on the brain. I really should have spent the weekend reading and blogging and saved the writing for next month. But you can’t always get what you want.

It all started with a new design for the blog where I’ve been posting some of my short stories. Other than the fact that I think it’s gorgeous and incredibly inspirational, the header image/design sort of fits my WIP perfectly. And it makes me really want to write that ending I’ve been sitting on for almost a year. I hope it will keep me motivated to work on edits and proofreading. We’ll see.

But at some point on Saturday I got into a conversation with another writer and was challenged to write something out of my typical genre. As someone who loves writing prompts and who does not like to walk away from a challenge, I found myself agreeing.

And while I’m not quite ready to spill the beans about what the story is about, just in case I really can’t handle stepping this far outside my comfort zone, I managed to get around 2,000 words written in just a few hours late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

Had the writing bug bit me just thirty days later I think this would have been a great story to work on for NaNoWriMo, but now that it has bitten I can’t table this story for an entire month. I want to keep writing it, I want to see where it goes. I want to find out if I am capable of tackling a subject/genre I’ve never attempted before.

I’m not even entirely certain I’ll be able to keep this story going for the agreed-upon length. As a short, maybe. But somehow the challenge turned into something of a long novella, short novel challenge.

But until the day comes where I’m staring at a blank page in frustration knowing I’ve written myself into a corner or the ideas stop coming for where my story should be headed – I’m a total pantster – I’m going to keep at it. And hopefully I’ll have met the writing goal for the challenge before NaNoWriMo begins. Unless, that is, I decide to double the story’s length, in which case I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to finish it.

Now I just need to find one of those word count countdown widgets so that I can track my progress. And I also really need to figure out a name for this current project other than “Untitled.”

I’m just really glad that I’m not alone in this mini challenge and that I have someone to pester mercilessly. This month should be fun. My only hope is that I don’t totally wear myself out before the big “race” in November.

NaNoWriMo rapidly approaches

… and I’m excited, nervous, hopeful, fearful.

It seems the only time I actually spend working on my WIP is during the month of November during NaNoWriMo. Last year I managed to keep plugging away at it into the month of December. But I haven’t done much more than glance at it, make a few small tweaks to some obvious grammatical errors, send it to someone to read/edit and then promptly ignore it for the past six months.

And now NaNoWriMo is rolling around again and I find myself anxious to get back to it but also feeling guilty for ignoring it for so long.

Every time I pick up the story I’m in a different place in life and the story changes because of it. In November 2011 I was clearly feeling a bit more optimistic and while it was never meant to be a light read, the story was a bit lighter, there was more humor, more sarcasm, more flirtatiousness. Last year I was clearly in a dark mood and so my story took a turn for the dark side. I put my MC in situations that weren’t easy for her and were definitely not easy for me to write.

I’d almost completed it last year, but for an ending. I couldn’t decide on whether to opt for tragic or to shoot for something somewhere between tragic and bittersweet. So I’m very curious as to what this NaNoWriMo will mean for the story’s end.

Instead of trying to make word count like I did last year, I’ve decided to try and finish the story, clean it up a bit, fix the continuity issues that I know abound and then decide whether to place it firmly at the bottom of the trunk or see if there’s actually someone interested in reading it.

I also have a few short stories I’d like to complete, so if by some stroke of good fortune I am able to finish my WIP before the month is over, I’d like to use NaNoWriMo to make that happen.

I think this is going to be the deciding year for whether I choose to pursue writing as more than just something I do in my spare time, when I’m not working or blogging about books.

At this point I’m still on the fence, as pursuing a writing career means I will have to cut down on blogging significantly. Blogging and all that it entails takes a good six to eight hours of my time each day. It is my second job. An unpaid one. But it’s become an important part of my life that I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to say goodbye to.

But it’s been a long time since I completed a novel. And while I may get a little crazy not writing to meet those daily sprints, I think completing my characters’ story is important, even if no one ever gets to meet Shay and Finn.

I will likely be journaling about my NaNoWriMo experiences here. There may be tears of frustration and anguish that I’ll need to voice. I apologize in advance.

Edit is a Four Letter Word

I have been sitting with my nearly finished full-length WIP for eight months. While I’m still struggling with the ending I think the real reason I haven’t been able to complete it is because the next step in the process is editing.

Not only do I not like to edit, I don’t have the first clue how to go about such a task.

And I’m not talking about copy edits. Those I can do. Or continuity edits. I can also catch most of those on a second or third pass. It’s the substantive edits that I have a problem with. Reworking a scene. Rewriting a character. And the dreaded *gasp* deleting of a scene or scenes.

While I am not a plotter – how can I plot something when the story hasn’t revealed itself to me yet? – I tend to edit as I go along. I’m not one of those writers that can lay the foundation, add in the “meat” and come back later to fine tune. If I can’t formulate a sentence in the exact way I want to that sentence won’t get written. I’ll rework it in my head until it sounds right – not that it is – before I put it down on electronic paper.

So this idea that I have to go back to a 250+ page story and whip it into shape is more than daunting. I don’t have the first clue how to go about setting things to rights.

And so it sits. Unfinished. With that ending just out of reach even though I know exactly (well, almost) how I want it to wrap up.

I do know my story needs work. I’m also not one of those writers who thinks that every word I write is golden. It needs a lot of help, actually. I have to decide if the tone got too dark as the story progressed or if it feels natural. I have to decide whether I went too OTT with certain misfortunes. I have to decide whether the romance that seems to have forced its way into the story is as developed as I need it to be.

And, frankly, I need to have someone – other than my family – read it to tell me if it’s a piece of crap and I should go back to the drawing board. Maybe take a writing course and learn how to outline. Or if I should keep at it.

I met these characters the day before NaNoWriMo 2011. I’m not entirely certain I’m the best person to edit their lives. We’re way too close. We’ve had too much history. And I think if I take the “red pen” to theirs, they might rebel.

The thought crossed my mind about hiring someone to do this task I equate with cleaning windows, dusting or getting chased by evil clowns, but I’m not certain how to go about that either. There’s a trust level that’s needed. There’s also an experience level that I’m not certain I could afford.

So I sit with this unfinished project of mine debating on whether or not to just toss it in the trunk and start on something new just so I don’t have to E.D.I.T.