Rolling Up the Next Idea

It’s near the end for the Crazy Train.  Today is the last day that people will enough the days and nights of literary abandon, and either hold up their arms in confident victory, or curse the fact that, once again, they didn’t make their goal for one reason or another.

Either way, you did what you wanted for this ride.  The real truth is, what are you going to do next?

I have some interesting feelings concerning NaNo.  It’s always good to have goals when you’re writing, because if you say, “Oh, I’ll finish this when I finish this,” then you may just find yourself hanging out on your computer–or however you write–putting down a word here, and a word there, and thinking, “Oh, yeah:  this is good” . . . and five years later you’ve got twenty thousand words in the bank.  You’re finished.  Maybe not in the time frame you’d imagined, but you’re done.

Take it from the voice of procrastinating reason:  if you write one novella every few years, reaching your goal of becoming a published writer might not only take a bit of time, but you might want to consider how slowly those payments are going to reach you.

I’ve said before that a story will end when it ends, that it’s difficult to say, “Oh, thirty thousand will do this,” when you’re putting it together in your head.  Maybe once you’re putting chapters together (as I do), you’ll get an probable idea of how long a story will run, but getting the exact number isn’t possible until you’ve seen you word counts for chapters, and you can start doing some Nate Silver-style number crunching.

This is what I did with my NaNo Novel:  once I saw the average count for my first ten or so chapters, I was able to see where the total was heading.  I started out saying that the story would probably run sixty thousand words; by the time I was a couple of chapters into Part Two, I revised that to sixty-five thousand.  I ended up at sixty-nine thousand, which means I’m happy, because it’s not an all-too difficult chore to get the count up over seventy thousand, and make the story a bit more presentable to a publishing company, should I decide to send it out instead of self-publish the work.

The issue I have with NaNo is that is sets your novel up as something that you must do with a certain word count by this date, or . . . well, the “or” is rather nebulous, but it leave one with the feeling that you’ve lost something.  People who write all the time know this isn’t the real way of the world, but you still see people come onto a forum and announce in a somewhat dejectedly post that they’ve failed, that they aren’t going to make their word count.

Well, whoopty do.  If you’re looking at this as a contest, and that you had to reach that fifty thousand word count otherwise you couldn’t treat yourself to ice cream today, then yeah:  it’s gonna bum you out.  If you look at it as, “Okay, I’m at forty-five thousand, but I’m going to need another thirty to finish this off, I’ll jack that out in the next couple of weeks–“, then you’re on the right path.

I’ve done NaNo two years in a row because I want that challenge of getting a novel out in thirty days.  I’ve “won” both times, but NaNo isn’t the end.  I edited my last NaNo Novel and sent it out, and I’ll get around to editing this one and doing something to get it to “my fans,” however crazy that sounds.

November isn’t a beginning and ending, all conclusive.  If you’re writing, then you’re jumping on the Crazy Train to pound out a story, get that first draft, and then either kick back for a few days before you pull back into the station–or jump off somewhere so you can hoof it to a nice diner for lunch with some friends, and miss all the hair pulling and frantic moaning that comes from trying to sprint your ass to that fifty thousand word finish line.

It’s not about the finish; it’s about moving forward all the time.  It’s about thinking of your next project, be it a story to edit, or a getting a submission ready, or writing something new.  It’s always about what’s next–

Not what’s going on.

That will take care of itself.