NaNoWriMo Post-Mortem

I actu­al­ly tried it.

It was a doomed effort, of course, from the start; all odds were stacked against me, as were com­mon sense and human decen­cy. But I rather sus­pect that this is the case for a great many NaNoW­riMo par­tic­i­pants. That’s the point, I sup­pose: you don’t have time to write, but you try any­way.

So I tried, and, unlike last year — where I gave up about ten days in and just past­ed all my pre­vi­ous work on my mem­oir into Scriven­er to see what my total project word count was, then wan­dered off to get a drink — in 2010 I start­ed with a fair­ly con­crete vision of what I want­ed to write and how to write it, and I kept push­ing all the way through the month.

My basic premise: the essen­tial arc, and many of the spe­cif­ic details, of my own expe­ri­ence of sem­i­nary and the lost years that fol­lowed — but made much worse. Every his­tor­i­cal moral lapse would be ampli­fied, every missed oppor­tu­ni­ty for moral lapse would be seized, and more than a few less than stel­lar moments would be imag­ined from the ground up. I approached it more or less as mem­oir meets lad lit, with a mot­to — “as bad as I nev­er end­ed up being” — as my touch­stone.

I can­not pre­tend that I got far enough to real­ly have a full appre­ci­a­tion for what craft­ing a lengthy work of fic­tion means or entails. But I think I can say that I was able to explore some new modes, to stretch myself as a cre­ative writer, and those exper­i­ments were both reward­ing and instruc­tive. For instance, I had nev­er attempt­ed to write a sex scene before. I haven’t even read that many of them, so giv­en that my prin­ci­ple lit­er­ary exam­ples are The Can­ter­bury Tales and Amer­i­can Psy­cho, I con­sid­er it doubt­ful at best that my numer­ous for­ays into that bit of genre over the course of the month were any­thing short of banal. But it was still high­ly enter­tain­ing to take a stab at it (so to speak).

But it was chiefly a fruit­ful expe­ri­ence, in two prin­ci­ple respects. First, it got me flail­ing away at the key­board again, freewrit­ing (which I have not done in far too long) an just let­ting the words flow. And sec­ond, it was very much, as intend­ed, a way to sneak up on my real mem­oir project from a dif­fer­ent angle. By treat­ing them as fic­tion, I was able to write a few scenes from my his­to­ry that have daunt­ed me for years. If that is all it takes to get an hon­est mem­oir writ­ten, I’ll keep work­ing on this crap nov­el as long as need be. I am sure I can make this char­ac­ter of mine get up to some more mis­chief that will make me smile, even if no one else ever sees it.

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