I’m in the thick of my second National Novel Writing Month this November, and I’m simultaneously having the best and worst time ever, which is pretty much how this project seems to be destined to go.

But really, this year has been a great learning experience for me as a writer– and I feel like I am learning different things from what I learned last year, which is especially rewarding as a second-year participant. In a nutshell, here is what I have learned so far:

1) I am not ready to write a memoir yet. I started out writing one, which is against the rules of NaNo anyway, and started to run out of steam after around 3,000 words. I think it had something to do with the fact that I had no plot. Anyway, I still want to write about what I was writing the memoir about, but I think it’s going to have to wait. It’s just more fun to make stuff up, and NaNoWriMo is all about the fun.

So, I started over on Day 7, which I didn’t think was such a big deal because last year I only LEARNED about NaNo around November 6th, and didn’t really get going until around the 7th-8th. So, I figured that was fine, and I came up with a novel plot that I loved and was really excited about and then around 14,000 words in, around, oh, November 17th or so, I realized that:

2) I can’t write a novel that is too plotted out, because then I have no room to play around and improvise and do those little riffs that are so enjoyable and take you in new directions and that are what makes writing fun and actually good. My novel was feeling stilted and running out of steam already, and this was why. Around the time I realized that, I also realized that

3) My main character was not honest with herself, and I hated her for it. She was in denial about every major relationship of her life, she was whiny, she was lame, and she limped blandly from plot point to plot point, and I was going to lose my mind if I didn’t dump her. I learned that when I don’t respect my characters, because they are not real, and honest with themselves, I can’t write about them. I learned this because:

4) Last Wednesday night the 17th, I opened up my novel from last year. I’m not sure why, but something in my told me that I needed to do that. I honestly hadn’t read it since I finished it last November. So it had been a whole year since I’d even opened the file. I sat down and read the whole thing in an evening, and discovered that actually, it wasn’t horrible, as I’d been convinced it was when I wrote it last year. I was so sure that it was a putrid piece of garbage that I never really wanted to read it again, and when I actually did, I was pleasantly surprised. Really and truly pleasantly surprised. It was really not that bad; in fact, it was relatively entertaining and even made me laugh in certain spots, which is not easy to do.

This made me feel a lot of feelings. It made me realize that what I didn’t like about my novel this year was that the main character wasn’t genuine. It made me realize that when I think I am writing horribly, I am not actually writing horribly. It made me feel sad that I have such a low opinion of my writing that after writing my novel last year I hid it away and didn’t even bother looking at it. It’s sat there for a year, without being touched, when I could have been editing it and working on it and feeling good about it. So, that’s kind of too bad.

Anyway, I need to get over being so secretive about my fiction writing. I need to actually show it to other people so they can help me figure out how to make it better. If anyone wants to read my novel from last year, send me a note to molly.schoemann@gmail.com or leave me a comment and I’ll send it to you. It’s really kind of not that bad.

All right, back to this year’s novel. I have 46,000 words to write in 10 days. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

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