I cannot remember, at least in the past few NaNos, struggling so much out of the gate. Typically for me, the first few days of NaNo are my easiest. The story is right there in the front of my brain and it is begging to be released. When November 1st rolls around, it’s like a floodgate opens and the story comes pouring out. I feel unstoppable. And I ride that momentum as long as I can because I know that come the middle of the story, I’m going to start to struggle a bit, slogging through until the climax starts to build. The middle is when the words are usually harder to come by.
This year, I was prepared for the same thing. A good start, followed by a bit of a slog, and then a strong finish. The story was in the front of my brain, patiently waiting, while I tried to keep myself occupied during the last few days of October.
Maybe that was a sign.
The story was there, waiting, but waiting patiently. There was nothing insistent about it. So, when November 1st hit, I found myself watching as a blank screen filled up with words in an almost painful way. And when I hit my word limit for the day, I looked at what I’d written and thought, “Holy shit, this is all garbage.”
First drafts are supposed to be garbage, I know. I’ve written enough of them to be very familiar with my particular brand of garbage, which has evolved over the years into a better quality of garbage. The first few days of this NaNo, however, reminded me of when I first started doing NaNo and the utter dreck that I wrote. Not that it wasn’t salvageable, by any means. But it takes a lot more work to recycle that kind of garbage into something worth reading.
The first week, I struggled to hit my stride, to find the story, to write the story like I knew what the hell I was doing. It’s like fifteen years of serious craft study had suddenly vacated my brain and in a damn hurry, too.
I hit 25,000 words yesterday, which is on target for where I want to be, and I thought to myself, “Has it always been this hard? Is it like childbirth? I just forgot about the agony as soon as it was over, only to be confronted again during the next labor and delivery?”
And the truth is, no. It hasn’t always been this hard. Or maybe I should say that NaNo hasn’t been hard in this way for a very long time. I think I do forget some of the “labor pains”, so to speak, from year to year, especially since I try to find ways to up the challenge of writing a 50,000 novel in a month. This year, the challenge was completely unexpected.
I do not relish the thought of revising this first draft. But I know that I will.
I can’t resist a challenge.