Monday, November 28, 2011

Don't Dive Into the Deep-End

So, I failed. The NaNoWriMo challenge, that is. I've thrown in the towel. I've waved the white flag. (Feel free to insert your own cliché here.)

50,000 words in 30 days was too deep a dive for me. I can line up a myriad of excuses, but I'll save you the violin playing. I comes down to a simple lack of discipline on my part, something I know to be my greatest fault as a writer. I dream of being able to walk away from my current job as a teacher, and when presented with an opportunity to hone my craft (an ultimately hone the skill that will allow me to walk away from my current job) I failed at it. I sit writing this entry a disgruntled mess.

When I say I failed, I don't mean anything more than the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I couldn't craft a narrative of 50,000 words in 30 days. The goal was, perhaps, too ambitious. But that's where my failure ends. I'm still working on the manuscript I began for NaNoWriMo, I just won't finish it by midnight on November 30th. Choosing the confines of NaNoWriMo as the platform from which I took my first dive into the science fiction pool was misguided. Up until recently, my stories have swam in the modern/urban fantasy genre. But my hope of cannonballing into the deep-end of scifi during NaNoWriMo turned out to be more of a reddening belly-flop.

See, the story (whose working title is Township Avalon) is one I feel can work. The difficulty resided in learning the proper strokes it takes as a scifi writer to navigate the waters of the genre. I'm building an entire new post-apocalyptic society intended to mirror the societal structures of Roman and Medieval times. In my mind, the story is greatly influenced by Arthurian legend, Spartacus, and the fantasy writing of George R. R. Martin. But the further into the draft I waded, the more I felt there was a lack of depth to it. Now, the intent of NaNoWriMo isn't to spit out a sellable novel, at least, that's not the intent I took it to have; I felt that trying to craft a 50,000 word manuscript in the 30 day time frame was more of a starting point, a diving board. As it stands now, the word count floats at 23,241 words. I might try to spray in a few more scenes before the 30th, but I can't imagine that word count getting up above 26,000 or so.

With the pressure of NaNoWriMo shed to the towel, I can turn my attention more fully to preparation for the writing conference I'm attending in January. I've got about two months, albeit busy ones, to sharpen my focus. I need to polish off the 3rd draft of my first novel--Mythos, put together a Query Letter, and type-up a synopsis. I also plan to finish the first draft of Township Avalon, and try to hammer out one or two sellable short stories. A close friend has always maintained that I need to get a short story sold before I can really get any agent's attention. We'll see. I've got plenty of short story ideas, but despite the seemingly similar oceans, short story writing and novel writing are two totally different swims.

I've written short stories before--that really was the only type of writing assignment I tackled back in the FIU creative writing department. I've posted one of the old college stories on this blog before. (The Jambalaya Pull) It was an ill-fated attempt at comedy. Attempting to revise that story years later was not-unlike learning how to swim at first. You know: dive in, paddle those arms, kick those legs, keep those chlorine-soaked open, reach for Dad. But Dad doesn't seem to be getting any closer. Actually, the s.o.b. is backing away. And just before your lungs burst, he grabs you and lifts you out of the water. Everyone around cheers, exalts you for such a good job swimming, even though it felt more like actively drowning. That's what comedy writing feels like: actively drowning.

Instead of actively drowning again, I've got another modern fantasy set up. I've also planned a simple little historical fiction piece. But all of these things will come after I finish up Township Avalon's first draft and the polishing of Mythos' 3rd draft. As NaNoWriMo comes to a close, I'm glad I gave it a go. I'm glad I stepped off the ledge and jumped in, but the challenge's waters were just too cold and too deep for me to deal with. I understand why denizens of the publishing world poo-poo the idea of NaNoWriMo. I can see the desks of agents becoming cluttered with half-drowned ideas gift-wrapped in the guise of a novel. But as I finally wade back to the depth I'm comfortable with, I take with me a better understanding of myself as a writer. I know what strokes I need to master before I attempt to cross the ocean of scifi again.

As the next few months pass, I'm planning to post several more bits of my writing. I'd love to get feedback. I'm planning on revising another short story from my college days soon, and posting it here. In addition, I'll might load up portions of the other pieces I've got going.

In something of a belated announcement, I'm thankful for all of you who take time out of your busy days to read my musings here on DLFwriting. I'm also thankful to those of you who have forwarded any of my writing to those people you know who might enjoy it. In addition, I'm thankful for my beautiful and supportive wife, my wonderfully maddening children, my loud, obnoxious and growing family, my health, and, although I'm not what you'd call happy there, my job. Thanks again for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I love you. Even though you did not meet the deadline, I don't think you failed. You challenged yourself and got a lot out of it. And I fully believe you are going to be pleasantly surprised by what comes out of this conference in January...Get ready to smile big!!

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