Does anyone notice that his/her quality of writing diminishes through the course of NaNoWriMo?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Quality may have taken a hit. But that's not the problem.

It's your enthusiasm you have to worry about.

When you started, you were filled with the zeal of a new idea, a tale untold, trapped within you, ready finally to be freed with the thought of  National Novel Writing Month to buoy you though the trying times; the camaraderie, the gatherings, the laughter and tears of your mutual tribulations.

It sounded glorious!

If you were diligent, you gathered your research around you. If you were writing mysteries, you gathered data on pathology reports, investigative techniques, and ten of your favorite gumshoe novels for inspiration.

If you were planning for a space opera, you had already decided which laws of physics you were going to violate, whether your aliens spoke the same languages, how different aliens needed to be sure they wouldn't poison each other at the dinner table (or how they could…). You had already created the circumstance where these three aliens would come to blows and maybe intergalactic war!

Whatever tale you planned to tell, you had prepared your notes to help you remember how to pace your story. You had your timeline of character movements in the story, how they would cross your world and ultimately where they would meet their final fate, in the case of those unfortunate ones. You knew how the story started, where it turned, how it moved, where the bumps in the road and the major betrayals would take place. After all, that's what an outline is for.

Or you might be one of those rare creative types which eschews anything as formal as an outline (hurumph) no self-respecting panster would be caught dead with one on their person. Pantsters live by their ability to create tales of magic, mystery and wonder literally by willing it into existence while you wait.

They don't need structure, the tale will unfold itself, in its own pace, at its own time; the characters will reveal themselves to the author, unfolding like the single page of paper the pantster refuses to admit they used to flesh out their characters. A sentence, nothing more. The pantster is often as surprised as the reader when they read their work at the end of the day.

No matter your route to this point, the challenge of preparing yourself to write and the actual ACT of writing, has saddled you with the realization, that you knew in your heart, and only remember when you get about ten thousand words in.

Writing is hard work.

Your brain uses 30% of all the oxygen you breathe in on a given day. All the other parts of you, your face, arms, hands, digestive system, lungs, heart, liver, legs and feet, get the rest. The brain is like the government. The lungs bring in 100% of the oxygen but the Brain takes 30% right off the top. No questions asked.

The brain is using its 100 billion neurons to allow you to alter reality. To imagine a thing which does not exist. To create a realm of existence filled with whatever you can envision in your mind's eye and can convince your fingers to push past your fear, your trepidation of not being good enough, smart enough, capable enough to create something out of nothing more than a dream you shared in November.

At the 10,000 word point, you are looking around and saying: How did I get here?

You are wondering if you can move your hero past the beginning of the journey, where he must leave the safety of home and head out into the world. His perils must be enough to compel the reader to feel sympathy but not so dangerous, he would, if he had good sense, return home. Unless you were ruthless and burned his home, nay his entire village to the ground.

So you must go on. Can you make those journey's interesting? The energy of your early writings, the adherence to fanciful language has now fallen away to the drudgery of the task. To get your hero through the rising action of the story, the difficult part of making things happen, which reveal parts of the story, introduce the villains, throw out a few plots to resolve along the way until you can reach the awesome most terrifying, most intense part of any book for any writer.

The Climax. Ohhh. Sounds so dirty, doesn't it? The part of the story you KNOW you have been trying to get to since your character left home. You have this part in your head, or your heart. You know what you wanted to happen, you have been working toward it and thus the book feels lighter than the crushing ball of internal lead you have been carrying up to this point.

For the first time, you have crested the mountain and can see the other side. The End is in sight. It's probably November 25 at this point. You are weary. Creatively bone weary. Your hero's journey at least for this first book in your tetralogy is drawing to a close.

His denouement and yours are coinciding. You weary of his complaints. You sicken of you need to coddle him or torment him further, in preparation for his next book of adventures.

You walk him to the hospital, bleeding from untreated bullet wounds, trying to have him have clever one-liners as he's wheeled in. He makes eye contact with the nurse helping him and they share a mile as she jabs him with a number ten I.V. needle…

Your hero grabs his dying companion who pushes a small gem to him. The secret of the quest. You knew he had it and it was finally time for your hero to take up his destiny. As he touches it, the energy stored from his dying companion suffuses his body. The gem takes up its residence on the brow of your hero. He rises as he hears the enemy dragons in the distance…

You're thinking to yourself: Oh, God (Noodly-appendaged-One, Goddess, Horned Diety from a Dismal Dimension, other patron deity of writing as needed), its almost over…

It will take a lot of energy to get to this point. So you are to be forgiven if your lyrical prose in your early writing starts to get a bit saggy near the end. The effort of remaining wonderful, magnificently creative starts to wear on even the most fertile of minds, once they begin writing on a work.

This is perfectly normal and you can fight this feeling if you are writer by thinking about your writing during the course of your day instead of waiting until the moment you are about to start writing, to consider the work for the first time. Your brain is cold. The engine sputters, coughs, wheezes to life.

What kind of writing could you expect to get out of your work-weary, mass-transit traumatized, hellscape on wheels, hours-in-traffic-addled creativity well of a brain to be able to produce at the end of the day?

Not much.

Patterson, huh. We can do better.

How about you consider the next scene in your book when you get up in the morning while your brain is still fresh?

  • Play it over in your shower and then off to work. Mess with your dialogue and where you want the story to go while you are standing in line for lunch.
  • Get excited over what story that particular scene, chapter or event will have in the overall flow of your story.
  • Hold on to that enthusiasm while you are writing this thing you have played with all day, this idea you have looked at from all sides, protagonist wanting something, antagonists taking something.
  • Your enthusiasm for a crafting a well-viewed scene should be palpable.
  • And your story should feel more alive because you are writing it when your brain is more alive and playing with the story while your brain is more active, spreading creativity like fairy dust on all of your work, not just your writing but at your job.
  • People may notice this creative approach to your work and look forward to November when you begin creating something anew, with enthusiasm, zeal and vigor through out the month.

It should make torturing your hero, overheating your brain and starving your cat totally worth it.

You've got this. Write like a beast and remember: The dream is free. But the Hustle costs extra.

This is what you'll feel like when you're done. Stop pontificating and get back to work.

About the Author:

Does anyone notice that his/her quality of writing diminishes through the course of NaNoWriMo?

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