NaNoWriMo Autopsy

I finally took the time to read through my entire NaNoWriMo project.  It’s pretty bad — quite clearly dead.  So let’s cut into it.

Note that the specimen has shrunk since it’s death at the beginning of December.  As I fix typos, repetition, grammer, etc. words have come flying off.  On December 1st I was just over 40,000 words.  Today I’m just over 39,000.  But words are such a poor measure of writing.  In this case the loss of words means a gain in the readability of the story.

Specimen has a pallid tone through the bottom half of skin.  As I rushed to complete the work, many of the conventions I tried to follow fell by the wayside and my writing became more blunt and more dull.  Sure, there is action taking place in the story — rather a  lot of action — but that action is portrayed bluntly in “he did,” “she did,” “they did,” sort of statements.  I’ll have to revisit those.  In addition, the character I liked most, the boisterous Frederick becomes pretty boring without an effective foil.  He might as well be dead because no one is going to miss him.  (Spoiler, I did kill him off.)

On initial incision into the body cavity we find the heart and lungs perfectly intact, but a great deal of the intestines, stomach, and other digestive organs are either undersized or missing entirely.  It’s a story with a bit of heart, but a lot of the internal plumbing is missing.  I outlined the work before I started so I’d have a good framework to follow each day but the story changed and evolved as I wrote much quicker than I anticipated.  As a result, my outline was outdated by chapter 4.  I never had the time to go and fix the outline — as that would take an awful lot of thinking and brainstorming and very little writing.  So certain scenes are missing and action takes place late in the story that has no good explanation earlier in the work.  Fixing this is going to require an all new outline and an awful lot of writing.  The plumbing alone could add 20,000 words or more.

Closer inspection of the abdominal cavity reveals the presence of several vestigial organs with no known purpose.  As my ideas changed, some of the earlier scenes lost their purpose.  They’ll either need new purpose or they’ll need to be cut.  It’d be a shame to cut them as some of my favorite scenes are now vestigial.  There are probably about 10,000 vestigial words, but I think 5,000 or so of them are salvageable.

The thing that suffered most from changing story ideas was the main bad guy.  At first I was going to make him wicked smart, then I wanted to make him an annoying suck-up kind of character, he ended up being introduced as wise, acting dumb.  I tried to tie it all together by making the main character comment that the villain was playing dumb, but it just doesn’t work.  Other characters, like my protagonist, need more hashing out.  Some characters just need to be more interesting.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll do NaNoWriMo again.  I spent an awful lot of time writing words that need serious revision, and I know taking a slower approach could have saved them.  It’s not for everyone.

That said, I have a great deal of respect for my friend Sparky.  She was able to finish the 50,000 words — starting at 0 words — in the course of a month.  Up until the last few days she complained of how far behind she was.  Then, all of the sudden, she writes several thousand words a day.  I seriously wish I could do that.  Maybe NaNoWriMo is built for sprinters like her rather than cross-country hikers like me.  I’m better off just slowly plodding away.



Posted in Writing.

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