First Drafts And Second Guesses

First Drafts And Second Guesses

I spent a lot of time second-guessing my decision to do NaNoWriMo this year. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, committing to write fifty thousand words this month when I have multiple essays, dissertation drafts, translations, and other work-related things to do. It would mean I couldn’t read as much, and would generally be one stress more than I needed.

I also couldn’t face the thought of failing. I have never lost NaNo, not since I was thirteen and writing my first terrible novel. I couldn’t bear the thought that 2016 might be my first year.

I decided to do it anyway. Despite my lack of plot. Despite my lack of time.

To be fair, I've definitely made worse life choices.
To be fair, I’ve definitely made worse life choices.

I’m not sitting down here today to tell you that I’ve already finished — I haven’t. In past years I’ve finished ridiculously early, with day three as my record (in 2013, when I was using voice recognition software). I thought about writing a post on day three, comparing my experiences then and now. Then I thought about writing a post on day four, comparing my experience to 2012’s. Then I thought of maybe waiting until day seven to talk again about my first year, even though I’ve done that half a dozen times on this blog before.

And then I thought maybe I should stop comparing this year’s wordcount to previous years’, and just focus on the novel itself. Which was something of a relief, to be honest.

I’m still ahead of schedule, having just passed 25,000 words, although I have to admit a large chunk of that is because I’m currently pulling an all-nighter to try and reset my body clock after several days of entirely nocturnal behaviour, and thus spent my time from 1am to 3am writing in an attempt to keep myself awake. But I’m not so ridiculously ahead, and honestly, that’s okay. After all, in 2013 I had a lot going on in my head and I was hoping NaNo could be a distraction, but it was over too quickly to be a very effective one.

But I’m not here to talk about 2013. I want to talk about this year.

But I did find the worst 2013 picture of me that I own, just for you. You're welcome.
But I did find the worst 2013 picture of me that I own, just for you. You’re welcome.

My plot didn’t kick in until I had at least fifteen thousand words and to be honest, it’s only in the last 7k or so that I’ve really got to grips with the whole concept of having an antagonist, though they’re still somewhat nebulous and undefined. My characters’ feelings are all over the place, their behaviour and speech patterns are inconsistent, and way too much of the opening chapters are just people talking or my narrator freaking out because uni is scary or something. I’m fairly sure if I went back to read this draft, I would hate it and want to give up.

I usually write pretty ‘clean’ first drafts that are just about readable as books, albeit books with huge plot holes and confused motives. That’s the danger of not plotting things out properly; you end up having to do larger rewrites. This one, though, I had literally no idea what was going to happen in it, which means my opening chapters are an aimless mess as I meandered around trying to figure out what my characters wanted and why.

But that’s okay. Because I think I’ve figured it out now, and I’ve found them a problem to deal with that will nevertheless not take away from the general concept of this as a happy novel.

That’s where my problem has been, so far. I’m trying to create conflict without actually hurting my characters in any serious or lasting way. It’s really hard to create drama when I’m used to killing all my characters and yet am doing my absolute best to keep this lot happy — because happy stories are seriously hard to write. I need to read more books with a lighter tone, so that I know how to do it. What even is conflict when you avoid both death and romance? How do you plot? I don’t know any other kinds of plots.

I made a cover, though.

happy4It’s always fun trying to make a cover when you don’t actually have a title yet. This seemed to work okay as a temporary title.

So far the book has involved Hamilton references. And a void full of magic. And a Carmilla reference, although the narrator didn’t get that one. It’s involved bad plant-related puns and a lot of pride flags and a couple of Ghostbusters references. There is a laptop that is powered by magic. One of the characters has been levitating. Things are happening.

Enough things to count as a plot? Who knows. At 4am, if you squint, they look like they might. I’m sure in the cold light of day, when I’m frantically trying to stop myself from napping so that I can actually reset my body clock and not just make myself even more nocturnal, I will be less impressed by the five thousand words I wrote nogiht tonight (one for the NaNoisms thread?) that constituted most of the actual plot so far.

We shall see.

Any fellow NaNoWriMo participants here? Let me know how you’re getting on. Tell me a bit about your novel, if you want. Except you, Cait. I already know you wrote like 62k in three days. You don’t count. ;)

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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