Remember that saying “bad habits are the hardest to break”? Yeah, well I can’t even say National Novel Writing Month is a bad habit, but I’ve finally realized it for what it was to me. A habit. I won’t lie. I owe a lot to that silly site. When I did my first NaNo in 2006 I’d never finished a book. I always started and then promptly lost interest a few chapters in. Why?
Because writing is hard. It takes discipline. Discipline I didn’t have back then. And it took me finding NaNo and going, “I can do that,” and finding ‘success’ before I realized my problem. I sat down my first year, wrote 50,000 words by the seat of my pants by Day 17. And then promptly stopped. I slacked off, twiddled my thumbs, and played on the boards. Then, somewhere in week four I realized I was still in the same boat I’d been in before I’d started. Yet another unfinished draft, only this time it was 50,000 words long versus three to four chapters. So I changed my goal and finished the story before the month ended.
That book, well it wasn’t a very good book. I set it aside and went back to playing with the idea of someday being a writer. Then I finished another first draft. Then another. I’ve got more first drafts sitting on my hard drive not going anywhere than most people have published books. For the most part, even if I rewrote them to death, they still wouldn’t be good. But every year, my schedule clears and I gear up to do NaNo.
I’ve changed a lot over the last year. I’ve went from playing at turning into a professional writer into slaving my butt off to be one. I’m elbow deep in edits and revisions on projects that need to get out to the world soon, that are ready for it… and suddenly I realize, I was just going to set them all aside so I can write another draft that chances are, will just sit on my computer for eternity or need massive revisions. Why? Because I always do NaNo. I don’t even need it. I write all year round. Daily. And if my reasoning is that it’s just a habit, then why?
So tonight I took the time to really look at what I wanted to finish this year. Where I wanted to be with each of my deadlines… and well, NaNo just didn’t make the list.
Back when I first started doing NaNo and writing consistently to the end, I wrote fast and by the seat of my pants. No clue where I was going and it didn’t matter if I turned out a heaping pile of dung at the end of it. I had fun. Now, I prefer to take my time. Savor the story. I’m tired of the word sprints, but most of all, I’m just plain tired of revisions. More specifically: The sheer numbers of revisions it takes me to salvage a NaNo story. Which are hugely higher than the number of revisions it takes me to polish a non-NaNo story (and these revisions, I happen to love).
So I quit the habit. No NaNo for me this year. Instead, I’m going to finish getting out the projects I’ve been working on. The story I intended for NaNo will still be written, but it won’t all be in one month and while it might still be crap, it’ll be at least at the level of stuff I enjoy revising. In the meantime though, I’m going to finish what I already have on my plate.
And I’m happy with that.