On failing NaNoWriMo, and other short stories

I haven’t really updated in a while. I would like to say that it’s because of NaNoWriMo, but that wouldn’t be completely honest. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November, participants are challenged to write a story of 50,000 words, which amounts to approximately 1,667 words. My decision to participate was perhaps a hasty one, since I made it on the evening of November 1st, but hey, I’ve always enjoyed a challenge.

I threw myself at it with wild abandon, frequently topping 2000 words a day for the first week. It was probably the most prolific writing spree I’ve ever had in my life, and I loved every minute of it. With no time to really plan, or figure out a plot overview, my ideas were flowing freely. Every day I sat at my desk and built a world, and it was amazing.

Then, the second week rolled around and the problems started. I sent the partially complete manuscript to a friend, because I was stuck at a particular point in the story and wanted some suggestions. At that point, I re-read what I had written and despaired. The temptation slipped in to go back, start rewriting, start correcting. I worried about hitting my 2000 word target.

The world I had built was crumbling around me. I forced myself to continue, but it wasn’t the same. I stopped hitting my target, sometimes dropping below 1000 words, then on November 11th, I gave up entirely. Many of my gamer friends will know that’s the day Skyrim came out, but it’s not the game’s fault. Hell, it didn’t arrive at my house until November 12th. The truth is, I had lost my passion for the story, lost my passion for the characters and I was dangerously close to losing my passion for writing.

With nineteen days left, I knew that if I continued, I ran the risk of growing to hate it so much I’d never want to write again. So I made the call. I shut it down, as Gordon Ramsay would shout angrily.

So what have I been doing since? Not a whole lot really. This is the first proper piece of writing I’ve done since the WriMo fiasco, although I do have an idea gestating that I’ll get started on in December after all my immediate university assignments are handed in. I’ve played a fair few hours on Skyrim, mainly just getting lost in the world. I played and finished both Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations in two days each. Assassin’s Creed is as good as ever, although I’ve started to experience diminishing returns, so I hope the next one has something special in store. I found Uncharted 3 to be fairly average, a much more tepid reaction than the rest of the gaming public, but nothing I feel the need to go into any depth on, unless anyone really wants me to.

I’m about half way through the latest Stephen King thriller 11/22/63, and it reinforces everything I already think about him. As a writer, he’s decent enough, but he’s a master storyteller, and I think that’s what counts. In school, I was always told to focus on my writing style, use adverbs, find replacements for ‘said’, vary up my sentence structure, but I think that’s wrong. The writing should serve the story, not the other way around.

My final piece of ‘news’ is that I have made the choice to stop buying single issues of comics. It was a decision I made back in Summer, but DC pulled me back in for a while with the New 52. It was fun, but really, the comic industry gets harder to support by the year. To put it bluntly, they are not offering value for money. The average comic now costs £2.50, and I can burn through it in 15 minutes. I paid £10 for the Stephen King book, and it has lasted for several hours of reading time already. That equates to four comics, or about an hours’ worth of reading. Skyrim, costing £40 has lasted me for around 20 hours, and I’ve barely scraped the tip of what it has to offer. That equates to sixteen comics, or about four hours’ worth of reading time.

I still love these characters and these creators, so I’ll still Amazon the trade paperbacks when they are finally released, but in terms of value for money, it is getting very hard to justify buying single issues. People like me, who buy in trades, are often told we are killing the industry. What’s killing the industry is the ridiculous prices being charged. DC recently celebrated because the newly relaunched Batman sold over 200,000 copies. Meanwhile, Modern Warfare 3 sold in the multi-millions. The people running Marvel, DC and the other publishers need to think long and hard. In an age where they have to compete with so many other forms of media, they are fast losing relevance, and so far their best response has been to flood the market with more and more titles, at higher and higher prices.

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