The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Week Two Blues

When you write 50,000 words in one month you really throw all caution to the wind. It’s like writing in concentrated form and like living in a concentrated form. Everything happens so fast, you don’t really have time to think about it – it’s writing for writings sake. I’m not explaining it right. I keep trying to, but I think you actually may need to go through such an extreme deadline yourself to get the idea.

Yes, I still love the experience, but week two really…well, sucks! I’m full of self doubt, my wonderful amazing characters appear to be flat and stunted in their growth. Their dialogue is wooden and forced, their conflict and situations are mundane – no one else (even me) cares what they are doing or what happens to them. It’s all quite tragic and I’m ready to throw my computer out the window – or beat it with a baseball bat. Dear Computer, I’m not serious. Please don’t blow up on me, delete all of my words without saving, or give me the blue screen of death. You are a wonderful machine and I will buy you a new jump drive when this month is over. Whew, crisis averted.

Like Anne Shirley I’m in the depths of despair. When I was in college I spent a semester in London studying literature and theatre. Before we left for Europe, I went to a meeting to meet my fellow study abroad students, learn tips about living in a different country, talk about what to pack and what not to pack – all that wonderful informational stuff. What I remember most about that meeting was a professor giving a lecture on culture shock – it came complete with a handout I’m sure I still have somewhere. She told us how we would all be excited, then sad, we’d go through a few weeks of hating the place and just wanting to be home, then we’d find our way, learn some stuff, have a blast and by the time we were ready to go home, we wouldn’t want to. Then remarkably, once we got home, we’d go through the whole thing again.

I remember thinking this is ridiculous – surely England isn’t that different from Minnesota – we speak the same language, celebrate most of the same holidays, and ironically are based on the same religions. London is bigger (a lot) than Minneapolis, but they are both large cities and thriving metropolises (I hope that’s a word) right? Also, who wants to group every single student into one statistic like that? Surely my experiences could be different than Jen or Andy on my same trip. And Ben and Theresa who went to Spain; their experiences had to be different still. So I went to London with this in mind, I was bound and determined to have nothing but a good time and see similarities between the two cities and the two countries. I still don’t know if this was the right or wrong attitude to go into living four months in another place with, but that was my goal.

Looking back on those four months and reading some of the things I wrote in my journal I think the truth was somewhere in between – and tween was definitely the theme of my life in London, but that’s another blog – and I can’t say I’d do it any differently if I could do it again. I had my own experiences and saw many similarities, some of which others never saw. I made sure to live in the moment, realizing while they were happening how lucky I was to experience them and mostly keeping up on my journaling so I would never forget. I also spent three entire days inside my flat watching American TV and crying because I wanted to be at home. And when I got home? Well, I spent three hours on the phone with a friend on the trip trying to figure out how we were going to live in Minnesota anymore, secretly planning our next trip to Europe.

I guess what I’m saying, If I lived in London four months of every year like I write a novel one month of every year, I’m not entirely sure I’d do it any differently. Not that I can’t learn from my mistakes; absolutely I can and do. I didn’t finish my novel the first year of Nano because I had no ending, I didn’t know where the story would get to. The next year I had an ending, in fact I wrote it out first, reaching my word count goal and winning.

But right now week two is kicking me hard. It is the point in my culture shock scenario where I sit in my flat for three days crying and wondering why I’m here in this stupid place at all. What’s keeping me sane is week three and four where I change completely and my novel becomes a masterpiece – it won’t stay that way on the re-read, but on November 30th when I reach my word count goal and submit the entire thing to the word-count gods, I will for that brief moment think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Then I’ll wake up on December first and wonder how I’m going to continue in the real world without writing at least 2,000 words a day and talking to my writing buddies about the slangs and arrows of writing a novel in one month.

Why do I do it? Well, like studying abroad, because it stretches who I am, remolds me into something else – something better. If you like this blog or these words than realize that a good part of who I am and how I write is because I once spent four months studying literature and theatre in London and also because every year I take on this ridiculous and rewarding task of writing for writings sake. You really do have to go through the journey to get to the end.

Here’s to week two, at the end of it will be week three and I really want to get to week three. Happy writing!


  1. I am longing for week three!
    Week one was awesome and I was all ahead, and now my characters seem to be ready to stop doing anything interesting and stop dealing with the possible apocalypse looming on the horizon. But week two is nearly over.
    NaNo-ers, stay strong!

  2. We are almost there; I feel the tide turning already. I think my characters are finally getting over their speech paralysis and are ready to be intersting again! Yipee.

    Keep writing Anna - and Matt - and Mara - and John - and Jeff - and all other fellow nanowers out's not too late, we can all still do it!