For the first time, I’ve failed NaNo.
In the future, anyone who chances upon my profile will see four wins followed by a loss. They might think something like “Oh, what a shame she messed up after so many successes!”
Of course, if they click further and look at the stats for the failed novel, then they’ll probably ask themselves “Why in the name of sanity didn’t she validate her novel if she had 87,474 words?!”
Well, the obvious answer is that to me, the goal of NaNo isn’t to write 50,000 words. To me, the goal is to write a complete novel.
And I didn’t do that.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I feel like my failure is justified: instead of spending the Thanksgiving break frantically writing my novel, I spent it frantically writing one of the two research papers due in mid-December. I’d rather fail NaNo than fail my classes. (Though I still spent too long working on my novel, and too little time working on my papers. I meant to crank out the rough draft of the Roman history paper fast enough that I’d have time to work on the Spanish American history paper as well, but — alas! — the temptation to write fiction kept distracting me. As did other minor things like sleeping, eating, bathing and trying to do other things that did not involve staring at the screen of my laptop.)
Despite the justifiable reason to fail, I still hate myself for failing. I wanted to finish the novel again this year, and that’s why I refused to validate, because I hadn’t won by my own set of rules.
But it bugs the heck out of me that I didn’t win. Especially when I had two pre-existing characters to work with (excised them from another novel, where they were dead backstory characters) and I had several scenes for them that I was really excited to get to, some of which I still haven’t gotten to yet.
I did all I could to give myself more time. I avoided the NaNo forums almost entirely. And one of my rare excursions to said forums reinforced my desire to avoid them in the future.
Now I must rant on that subject. Because I have no other place in which to rant.
There’s a forum called the “Reference Desk” where you can ask for help with information for your novel. I had a scene coming up where one of my two heroes is looking at the other’s dog-eared copy of the Iliad, and sees passages underlined, with quotes from other sources written in the margins. The character who owns the book is in love with his best friend, so as soon as he first read the epic — when he was still an insecure teenager unsure if he was willing to accept his sexuality — he seized on the love between Achilles and Patroclos as a validation of his own love for his best friend. (This is all actually somewhat meta, as in the book they originally came from, they were, in fact, the reincarnations of Achilles and Patroclos. But he still had the same obsession with the Iliad for the same reasons. As I said, a bit meta.) Most of the quotes were from ancient sources, about the love shared between the two comrades, but for the first one — the only one in which Patroclos is still alive! — I didn’t have anything. So I thought I’d ask on the reference desk, to see if anyone could suggest anything.
Since the quote from Achilles in the Iliad was about his desire for the rest of the Achaians and all the Trojans to suddenly die, so he and Patroclos could take the city alone, what I asked for (amidst other explanatory text) was:
So what I need is a quote along the lines of “if only you and I were the only two people alive in the world!” that passes between a man and a woman in love. Ideally, something Shakespearean.
And what did I get?
The first quote I was given was “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Yeah. That really says “I wish everyone else would die!”
Every single other quote I was given was just a plain, simple romantic quote with absolutely no sense of wishing everyone else would die. No sense of “we should be the only ones left alive” at all.
The closest was something misquoted from Wuthering Heights, which — as misquoted — seemed to have a bit of a sense of “I wouldn’t care if everyone else died, so long as he’s alive” but in the original version it was just “I’m alive if he’s alive and vice versa” which is not in the least bit what I needed.
There were like four people involved here, and not one of them picked up that I needed a quote that says “everyone else should die” not a romantic quote.
Is it me? Is everything I write just so dense and impenetrable that they didn’t get it? Even after I said “none of what you quoted seemed to have the “I wish everyone else would just die!” sense that I’m looking for.”
I mean, I thought that was pretty direct. I thought that was pretty obvious. But maybe I’m just incapable of seeing my own obfuscations?
I know they meant well, it’s just…sometimes it’s better to stay quiet than to try to help when your help isn’t useful.
Okay, rant over. I just had to vent that.
(And, realistically, I should have searched through Troilus and Cressida for quotes about the love between Achilles and Patroclus there, but…for one thing, Ashley would not write a quote from that play in his precious copy of the Iliad. Despite that it does — probably for the first time since antiquity — depict Achilles and Patroclus as in love, it also depicts everyone as a blowhard buffoon. (Every man in the play is a miles gloriosus, except Pandarus, who is –obviously! — a panderer. And he doesn’t even have the decency to die, despite being utterly reprehensible. I had to go re-read his death from the Iliad as an antidote after I finished the play. (Not that there is any similarity between the two characters apart from their name, mind you. The one in the Iliad is a young archer from Lycia, and Shakespeare’s — following Chaucer’s, no doubt — is an old(ish) man from Troy itself.)) Anyway, even if Ashley would have been able to stomach writing a quote from that play in the margins, there really aren’t any that would fit. (Yes, I highlighted all the lines of that sort in my Kindle complete Shakespeare. So what of it?))
Anyway, I’m not giving up on the novel, mind you. Eclectic Alli is hosting an event called DeDoWriMo, to let us “do-over” our November mistakes, and so on, and I’m going to be using that as motivation to finish the novel up quickly. But since it doesn’t come with a graph charting progress, I’m not going to push myself to write every day until after my papers are done. I’m planning on doing what writing I can in that time, but it’s not like the whole 1,667+ words every day thing of NaNo.
I’m not sure why I’m so hung up on finishing what I start, though. There’s not much point to it. I’m not sure I’ve ever written anything salvageable.
Technically, I feel like my quasi-YA series might be salvageable, if I had nothing else to do but research, research and re-write. But I’m trying to get a Master’s Degree in History so I can either qualify for a job at long last, or get a PhD, or both. It’s hard to balance a lot of unrelated research into that schedule, especially since part of the research would be to read tons and tons of novels to try and remember what descriptions are like and how to fit them into text. (Though there’s still the problem that I’m incapable of visualizing things, so I have nothing to describe, because I don’t really know what anyone or anything looks like, so what am I going to describe? It always feels so random when I try it, and it usually breaks up the flow of the text, badly.)