I have often complained about my education as a journalist ruining my ability to write anything longer than 400 words. Journalists value concise narrative. Just the bare bones. My literary heroes, Ernest Hemingway and Stephen Crane, came out of journalistic careers and redefined 20th century novels as modern works of minimalism. Secretly, I wanted to be their heir — a novelist who wrote like a journalist. Then, NaNoWriMo screwed up everything.
I approached this month looking at the 50,000 word goal much like a cockroach would look upon Mount Everest. It was an impossible task — 125 times longer than anything I was accustomed to writing. I didn’t want to get through my whole story in 20,000 words and feel inadequate, so I made a detailed outline and unleashed my inner Tolstoy. Elegant descriptions of a gutted supermarket and the flight of a pair of ravens flowed forth from a well of verbosity hidden deep within me. The number of adjectives in my prose skyrocketed. In my desperation to not go too quickly, I overdid it.
I am now 12,507 words into my novel — a quarter of the way to the goal — which would be great if I wasn’t still in Chapter Three, with eight characters and 14 major plot points left to introduce. I went from a streamlined, minimalist writer to taking 500 words to describe a train in just two weeks. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a longer novel (50,000 words is technically a novella, anyway), but I don’t see myself finishing 75,000 words by November 31st and I don’t know how much motivation I’ll have when everyone else has happily typed “The End.”
To write the whole thing as outlined or trim some of the fat. That is the question. Never before have I suffered from writing too much. What I would give to have this problem when writing term papers. What to do, what to do…
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You can follow my adventures 140 characters at a time on Twitter — @jonnyeberle. Also, 15 points if you can identify the creature in the image above.
2 responses to “Overcompensating”
Not to be, hmm, a-ginner, lets say, but I don’t think you should let NaNo hamper your writing. Who cares if “everyone else” finishes their novel in November when yours is still not finished (or even if yours still isn’t 50,000 words! these things happen >.>) The thing is, the point of writing, real writing, is not to reach a word count or to keep up with the writing-Joneses of other novelist’s word counts. The point of writing is to give birth to a story, support your characters along the way, and ultimately connect— through your writing— to the audience. It doesn’t matter if it takes 30 days or 30 months; all that matters is that you love your characters enough to give them an ending, eventually, that suits them and their world. Their story can be as sparsely worded or purple-prosy as you, the author, feel comfortable with; just make sure you are staying true to your own style.
So, after that rant of a comment, I say simply this. Try for your Nano goal naturally without padding your prose, but if you fall short of your goal, don’t give up. There are many of us who have never completed a single Nano but who have still managed to finish novels when the time was right. Never let the stress take the joy out of telling a story 🙂
I like Mary’s comment above. Write this novel for yourself, not NaNo.
And don’t worry. I have 28,000 words at the moment and I only have 3 chapters also. It’s not good, but for now it will do. We can take care of all of those extra adjectives, run on sentences, un-contracted contractions later during editing time. Now, it’s all about sitting down and actually writing something, anything. It’s about having fun.