Completed Digital Manuscript

6 Dec

Well, I did it, y’all. On November 30th, I reached the 50,000th word of a novella I had started on the 1st. I can finally take “winning NaNoWriMo” off the list of accomplishments my girlfriend can hold over me to make me feel inferior. Now I just have to re-enroll at Dartmouth so I can also work on the “bachelor’s degree in a science” and “being actually good with math and science” things, too. I am, however, very close to crossing off “having better breasts than me!”

I realize, perhaps, the reason why I was able to pull it off this year was I approached it very much like I would an exercise program when I was still into the “not being fat” thing. You have your regimen where every day you do a set number of exercises, no more, no less, and days are only to be missed in cases of extreme fatigue.  The NaNoWriMo website had a chart where it showed how much you should be writing every day and what your total word count should be by the end of each day. I would follow that strictly, not pushing myself any farther once I reached the recommended number, to avoid burning out, and never letting myself slip behind, except for three days when I decided sleep was more important. You can be sure the following days I made up for it, though.

I really only have two modes of behavior: really disciplined or devoid of discipline. There is no middle ground, and if I slip the slightest amount from one end, I usually tumble all the way to the other end, usually in the direction from really disciplined towards no discipline. It happened with exercise. Fall of my junior year of college I would just start taking a few days off from the gym, then soon enough taking whole weeks off, then going to the gym completely disappeared from my schedule. It happened with NaNoWriMo last year. I got off to a strong start, was writing lots and lots, but then I got ahead of schedule and started letting myself take days off, then, before you know it, by Thanksgiving I up and quit. It’s not so much a slippery slope as a plateau followed by a completely frictionless incline. My discipline can only be modeled by completely hypothetical objects.

It also helped that I had a real story to write this year, as I mentioned in a previous post. The only reason I did NaNo last year was simply because my girlfriend had urged me to, and I just came up with the most convenient story I could write about. This time, I actually had a story I wanted to write, and I had characters and events bumping around in my head that wanted to come out and put themselves on the page. What amazed me was that the times I had what could be called “writer’s block,” it wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write about. The fact that I had outlined the story beforehand assured that wouldn’t happen. I would sometimes, I guess, be too afraid to write it, or something like that. Too afraid to hit the big beats too quickly, or even too slowly, that what I would write would come out wrong, so that I’d just spend two hours fucking around on Twitter when I could have written however many thousand words.

It was and is still exhilarating, looking back on it, to know I wrote that much of my own volition, the only external motivation being an arbitrary deadline that had no bearing on work or school grades, but was motivation enough to swing me into disciplined mode. Ultimately, NaNo served its purpose in that it got me to write no matter what. For a whole month, every day had time budgeted towards writing, and that was really edifying. It was like spending a second honeymoon with the craft of writing itself, re-discovering your connections and your love for it that was never really lost in the first place. I even read more because of it. I actually finished reading a book by the end of November at the same time I had finished writing one. I had fully enveloped myself in the world of the word.

By the end of it, however, I felt very relieved, don’t doubt that at all. The whole day after I hit “The End” on my novella I had a headache. It felt like I had just run a marathon, except, unlike after I finished my first cross-country race in high school, I didn’t actually vomit, but I didn’t feel good. I still feel like I need to do something to properly relax my mind after all of that, like watch a lot of junk TV or something. Whatever the intellectual equivalent of eating a double bacon cheeseburger with a strawberry milkshake after a wrestling tournament is.

Of course, there’s the inevitable question of if I’m going to try and go any further with this novella, i.e. try and get it published. I’m not quite sure. Really, my original intention was just to use this as a way to write out all of my ideas for this premise and these characters so I could then do it as a TV show. However, I am feeling proud of the novella itself now, after finishing it. I’ve shown it to a few friends, and have gotten some positive feedback, which means, at the very least, it’s an entertaining piece of writing that could possibly have some market, even if it’s not fine literature.

Of course, there were plenty of comments about room for improvement among all the positives, and naturally, a first draft is never meant to be the final product. The thing is, although I have a bit of experience writing, I don’t have a terrible amount of experience re-writing. At least not re-writing more than  a few lines here or there.  I realize if I was, in earnest, to try and make this a marketable item, I would embark on a re-writing process that would last not simply another month, but possibly a year or even longer, where I would be hacking out and doing away with chunks of  the original manuscript replacing it with new, and of course, improved stuff.

I’m truly afraid of doing that after I had spent so much concentrated effort on writing those original 50,000 words, even if they are 50,000 words of crap. It’s not like if you have a baby, and it turns out to be an ugly baby, society would be okay with you just hitting it in the fact with a hatchet with the excuse that you’re going to have another, prettier baby soon. Maybe in the middle ages they were okay with that. Maybe, thus, it was easier to rewrite novels in the middle ages. But that’s not the point. I guess for now I should just let it sit, let it stew in the back of my brain until I lose all my attachment to it, perhaps develop enough post-partum rage towards it that I can properly drown my baby and start anew.

Then again, there is Script Frenzy in April. I might simply make the “second draft” be the television adaptation of the novel, achieving my initial objective in a roundabout manner. Actually, there’s nothing roundabout about it, that was exactly what I conceived happening as soon as I decided to use this idea for NaNo. Okay then, that’s what’s happening. Fine. So there.


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