Dispatches from the Trenches – Week 4

NaNoWriMo 2012This is it. The end of the war. And while many of our brave writers have already passed that imaginary line marking the end of their involvement in NaNoWriMo, I am looking at a word count that is just over halfway there.

I will not finish my 50,000 word count by tomorrow.

I’m not happy about this. But neither am I depressed. I finished NaNoWriMo last year, but failed to finish my novel. I was determined this year to spend the month editing and finishing last year’s manuscript. But, as you may know, I realized early on that the novel could not be salvaged. I needed to start over.

So I decided to join in on NaNoWriMo this year. Again. One more time.

And I wrote. God, how I wrote! In those first few days, I cranked out 10,000 words. Probably more than I had written in all this year’s other stories put together. And by the end of week two, struggling, I managed to hit 20,000 words. It was hard work, but I was making progress.

Then I slowed down. Then I stopped. And somewhere around 26,000 words, I realized that most of what I had written in my NaNo-inspired writing frenzy would have to go. As a writer, I was cranking out words. As an editor, I looked at the mess and said, “No, this will not do.”

My inner editor, you see, is a wise man, a fair man, but a very harsh man. While I was having fun building character and backstory, he looked at my manuscript and shook his head saying, “It’s taken one-third of your book to get to the first major plot point. And you’ve dropped the roommate character completely. Why did you need her in the first place? Get rid of her. In fact, the first couple of chapters are garbage. Cut them.”

When I looked at it closely, I could see where I went wrong. And the answer made me a little queasy: NaNo Write-Ins.

Wherever my story veered off course, I could see telltale signs that it had started with a word sprint. For 15-20 minutes, I had written without an editor to guide me, and the story suffered for it. I hadn’t done enough preparation. I didn’t know my characters or my setting well enough. I let a moment’s frantic inspiration guide me.

And it led to ruin.

Okay, maybe “ruin” is a bit harsh. But now that I’m officially off the NaNo bandwagon, I’m editing the heck out of what I’ve written to see how much I can salvage. With luck, it’ll be enough to keep me going. And this time, I’ll finish the story.

This is my last dispatch from the trenches, and — as you may have surmised — my last NaNo. I’ve learned all I can from this experience. Some was good, some was bad. But I won’t put myself through this again.

Signing off for the last time,

Kevin W.
Lawrence, KS

Kevin Wohler is a copywriter and novelist living in Lawrence, Kansas. During the day, he works at a digital marketing agency in the Kansas City area. When time remains, he likes to tell stories of the weird and bizarre. And sometimes, he writes them down for others to read.

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