Sometime around 10:45 last night, the NaNoWriMo novel died after a relapse of plot problems and increasing indifference. The relapse began on Wednesday when I realized that, despite finishing Part 2, it was more or less unusable. It wasn’t the direction I wanted to take things. At the time, I didn’t see this as critical. I was eager to write Part 3, but as I started down that direction, I realized that a rewrite of Part 2 would require some minor changes in Part 1 and who knows how it would impact Part 3. I found myself stalled, unable to move forward, and I eventually realized that this was a graveyard spiral from which there would be no recovery.
The novel died quietly in the night.
I don’t see this as a complete failure for several reasons:
- Part 1 is really outstanding and I plan to cannibalize it and make it into a long novelette or short novella.
- I learned more about the novel-writing process than ever before
- I wrote a lot, and for me, any writing is good practice
- Most importantly, it taught me that I am not yet ready to write novels and that I should focus on what I am getting better and better at, which is writing short stories.
This last point is the most significant thing to come out of any of the NaNoWriMo’s that I have so far attempted. Last night I realized that I should be focusing on my short fiction. I am not trying to be a full-time writer so there is no need for me to be writing novels. I don’t think I have reached the maturity or level of experience to write a novel successfully. I think this might come with time, but that I shouldn’t force it. I should stick with short fiction and focusing on writing more of that, and moreover, selling more of that. I love short fiction, and I am getting better at it and I should be taking advantage of my recent successes to write even more of it.
This is what I will be doing, therefore. My goals for 2011 will reflect this, and I will discuss that in more detail when I post those goals closer to the end of the year.
I am partially done with Story #8. I also have a small amount of Story #9. Story #10 will be the cannibalized version of Part 1 of the novel. I might not finish these three stories before the end of the year, but whatever I don’t finish will carry over to next year. Next year my focus will be entirely on short fiction. I may even skip NaNoWriMo next year to maintain that focus. I want to get as good as I can get at the art before I move on to something else. Maybe I’ll try novels again a few years down the road, but for now, it’s short fiction.
This is an invaluable lesson. You can’t be everything. I have friends and colleagues who are outstanding novel writers. I am not. But I’m getting to be a half-way decent short story writer and with more practice, maybe I’ll even be pretty good at it one day.
I’ll tell you this, though: when the novel passed last night, it came as an enormous relief. Admitting defeat was, in a way, cathartic. I am looking forward to getting back to short fiction.