Friday, 27 October 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017: And here's where the second thoughts kick in...

I had forgotten — allowed myself to forget, maybe — that by the standards of the NaNoWriMo forum I do everything wrong. If I offer advice or support to someone, the next few posts will be contradictions targeted directly at me. If I ask a question, all responses will be phrased in terms of 'you've done everything wrong up to now, but you can save yourself by following my advice'.

This is... honestly, probably all in my head. It's me being oversensitive or something. It's the community assuming every question has 'I need to throw my entire process out the window' at its core. That much, I've observed from reading threads I have nothing to do with.
So, I end up in this position: I sort of want to do NaNoWriMo for the challenge, but I think trying to get involved at all is only going to hurt me. I'm not naturally a confident writer and being part of a community that can be relied on to criticise every part of my process will give the voices of doubt and uncertainty that much more strength.

The thing is, the NaNoWriMo community is supposed to be the best part, not the worst. It's supposed to be supporting and caring, and most of the time I can tell myself that all the criticism and correction is well-meaning. When it's directed at me, though, I can't shrug it off. I start to question myself instead.

What if the reason I haven't written much this year is that there's something terribly wrong with my process? Do I need to throw it all out the window and try something new? According to NaNoWriMo, the answers would be 'yes, that's the reason' and 'yes, you definitely should change your process'. Bit by bit I internalise this idea that everything I'm doing is wrong, and without even setting out to do it I start trying to change things.

Changing things according to advice and self-doubt only leads one place: straight into the Brick Wall of 'I Give Up'. According to the community, this is because I'm not trying hard enough. If I really set my mind to the task of learning and implementing this new process — whatever it is — I'd be fine. And, I'm never fine. I only become fine when I escape from all the well-meaning but ultimately destructive advice and go back to what I know has worked in the past.

I usually don't get to this point until about mid-November, when the negative thoughts about how badly I've followed all the advice becomes overwhelming. To sit here before NaNo has even started and realise the community will poison me is a strange feeling. I'm not sure where to go from here.

So, this is what has worked for me in the past:

  1. Before starting, I need a title (so I can name files something) and a genre (which is automatic, because I always know I want it to be SFF). Nice but not necessary: a named character and a vision of where this character is sittng when the story starts.
  2. Have a significant starting date (usually 1st of the month), a clear ending date, and a daily and overall wordcount goal.
  3. While writing, maintain consistent progress: write every day, keep hitting the daily goal.
It's that simple, and that hard. This November, if I write anything at all, this is what would work. I just have to convince myself to stick with it, because that's the real problem I have with writing: not that my process is wrong, but that I need to work harder at actually following it.

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