Measuring your output against someone else’s output is a game with no winners at all.
I spent this past Saturday at my CRRWA meeting, learning about Twitter from the fabulous Rebecca Grace Allen. There was, of course, discussion of who’s doing NaNo and who isn’t. I did not personally take part in said discussion, since I’d been pounced by a scene for one of my current projects and wanted to get that down (in purple fountain pen, not pictured) before the actual presentation started. Some people did mention where they are in word count, but I don’t remember any of the numbers.
The quote at the top of this post comes from Seanan McGuire, and has been sitting in my quotes folder since this time last year. Last year, I was slogging through a historical romance someone else had asked me to write, and a story I wanted to want to write, one that hewed to the historical facts, including cool but little discussed historical fact. There were settings I should have loved, characters who, for the most part, should have fit the bill, but still felt like cardboard cutouts on popsicle sticks moving about a stage made from a secondhand produce crate from the grocery store. I had index cards and plot structure and dangit, everybody had to fall in line because this was NaNo, and I had to get words on the page.
That’s not what I’m doing this year. This year, I am letting the characters have their heads and trust that they are going to show me where we all need to go.It’s a different experience, and staying outside of the focus on word count is, so far, a very good thing for my process and output. I’m not visiting the NaNo forums this year (or at least I have not, yet) and when I do see the reports of those who announce they wrote however many thousands of words a day, or bemoan that they did not reach a word goal, it doesn’t affect me. Last year? Oh woe. 1667ish words per day – some days yes, some days no, and the no days meant without a doubt that I sucked, I was a failure, I would be moving my popsicle sticks around a grocery crate from now until doomsday, in endless circles, lapped by the ‘real’ writers who could set a word goal and meet it.
This year, I’m writing. My goal for the day is to get a scene written, or to the halfway point -that’s good, too- and outlined to the end of the scene. This lets me focus and live in the scene, crawl into the POV character’s skin, see what they see, feel what they feel. It’s what I did when I first fell in love with writing and didn’t know any better. It feels awesome. One of the projects I’m working on makes my heart slam against my ribs, beating its fists against the voices that insist I can’t do it. Those voices, I shut out. Mostly. Still learning. They sneak in once in a while. They always do. Still, head down, eyes on own paper, trusted CP on hand for blabbering to and talking me down from the ledges on which I occasionally find myself.
I don’t think I could do that and do NaNo this year. This year, it’s story over words. Get to the end, and if the story needs to be longer or shorter when I’m done, that’s what the second draft is for; this one is for getting the story out, and for getting to know Anna-the-novelist again. I’ve missed her. It’s good to see her back.