(my second novel)
Last november I embarked on a journey –– to write fifty thousand words in one month. It was my first time truly participating in National Novel Writing Month, and I was over the moon when I won. I completed the challenge! By December I was fifty thousand words into a brand new story, had just completed the first draft of my first novel, and I was on top of the world.
So, what happened?
Here we are now at the end of February, and I haven’t even managed to get an additional twenty thousand words into Project Genie since November. The project is currently sitting at around 65,000 words. I had hoped to be completely finished with the first draft by this point. The first draft I had estimated to be around 100,000 words once completed. As you can tell, I’m nowhere close to achieving that goal.
I’m not entirely sure what caused this lack of progress with this project. I think there were several different contributing factors to be completely honest. For starters, I’m worried that barrelling through NaNoWriMo during a pretty stressful time in my life may have been a mistake. Sure, I got the 50k, but at what cost? I just felt so burned out and mentally exhausted afterwards. After I finished the last few chapters in Project Dragon draft one, I didn’t write anything at all for about three weeks.
On top of the nano burnout, as I’ve taken to calling it, there was the additional stress of the holiday season. The holidays are always stressful, no matter who you are, but when you have a broken family they can be extremely taxing. Emotionally and physically. So I just didn’t really have the mental energy to be actively drafting Project Genie throughout December.
But then January came, and I still couldn’t write. I started my read-through of Project Dragon (taking notes for draft two) towards the end of the month, but I got barely ten thousand words in Project Genie. And now in the third week of February, I’ve only added around five thousand words to that.
So I’ve had to ask myself, what’s blocking me from making notable progress in this novel? And I realized it’s basically because I don’t know where the story is going. Winning Nano got me to the midpoint turn of the story. It also got me through everything that I sort of had loosely outlined? I do call myself a “pantser” because I can never stick to an outline, not even a flushed out, detailed one. But usually I’ll have a general idea of how I want the story to go, how I want the characters to arc, etc. And I do sometimes have a loose bullet point list to accompany that general idea, which was the case with Project Genie in the beginning of November.
However, I only had this vague idea of the first half of a story. So once I got the fifty-thousand words to win Nano, I didn’t have much of an idea of where to take the story afterwards. So because of that, progress on the project has basically been non-existent.
After realizing the different factors that had contributed to my lack of progress within this project, I decided I needed to change things up a little so that I could power through this first draft. So, after brainstorming possible plot lines, I’ve come up with a few directions I could take the stories and characters in.
But that’s not all. I’ve realized that I was trying to write this first draft as a second or third draft with my level of detail and such. Nanowrimo was probably more than a little to blame for that approach –– it was all about the word counts. So I was taking extra care to completely fill out scenes without even knowing what scene came next. And I think for the purpose of finishing the draft, I need to switch to first or even zero draft mode. I need to work through the story and figure it out before I can worry about details and intricate subplots –– things I could focus on a little more in the first half because I already knew that part of the story and how I wanted to tell it. (Though I still probably should not have focused on as much). This means I may only have a few paragraphs or a handful of sentences for scenes. It means I may even leave blank spots for entire scenes if I know something should be there but I’m not entirely sure what. Basically I’m going to do whatever it takes to figure this story out and get through this drafting process.
One thing I do know; however, is that this decision will make the revision process for draft two quite interesting hahahaha. But I hope that it’s the right decision, because I really love the concept of this story and the potential the characters have!
I’ll let you all know how the new process is going in my next writing update!