In Which I Fail Spectacularly at NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month has destroyed me. I set out at the beginning of November with the intent of writing a 50,000 novel. In the back of my mind, I knew I would fail. And then, giving into subconscious worries and fears, I did precisely that. When November ended, I had less than half of my novel finished.

I went into the whole thing with a certain lack of commitment. While I do have some aspirations when it comes to fiction (someone once said that “aspiring novelist” is a synonym for “human”) I’ve often thought that if I do ever write anything long-form, it will be nonfiction. (For example, the travel memoir that I’ve been trying to unsuccessfully sell/finish for the past two years.) At present, I’ve gotten some nice gigs writing about architecture and built industry in Portland, and I’ve done the odd article about things blowing up. I feel comfortable with nonfiction- after all, with nonfiction the fascinating story is already there. The only thing that a writer has to do is find a way to overlay their own fascination onto the pre-existing facts, and there you go. It comes naturally to me, especially when I’m writing about something that I really enjoy.

For NaNoWriMo, I knew that I would have to create a whole lot of written content very quickly. I chose to do a what I thought was a straightforward genre story- a murder mystery, but with vampires. I figured that I’d be able to put together a plot fairly quickly, and could have a lot of fun with the exposition how my vampires worked. Coming up with the story was pretty easy- I had a murder at the beginning, a twist at the end, and a sleuth trying to figure it all out. There was mystery at the beginning and a big fight at the end. The only problem- I didn’t have nearly enough of a middle.

Writing the story, I realized that mystery novels need red herrings. Lots of them. They need lots of little avenues down which the sleuth can look, and the readers can speculate about. While I thought the big twist at the end was pretty satisfying, I found myself struggling to construct blind alleys in the middle of the story that weren’t obviously not the solution for the puzzle. I ended up struggling far more than I thought I would, got distracted by several other projects, and ended NaNoWriMo soundly defeated. I had less than 25,000 words, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with a semi-completed vampire mystery.

For whatever reason, though, I have decided to take it on next year. Now that binge-writing had defeated me once I (for irrational reasons of pride and insanity) have decided that I need to take it up again until I’m finally successful at it. Come next November, I’m going to be, yet again, attempting to generate vast quantities of bad fiction. Next time, NaNoWriMo. Next time.

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