Something I’ve been pondering lately in the wake of NaNo is the fact that, at one point, I used to consider myself a good writer. Good is, of course, relative. I’ve been writing since I cracked legitimate teenagerdom, and if I dared to look at what I did back then, I’d probably puke. In ages past, most would probably have lost old manuscripts via decay or misplacement, but I’ve got all that stuff around here somewhere thanks to multiple website backups. Maybe I should just go and delete it.
Back then, I used to think I was a good writer because I had a good command of vocabulary and grammar relative to my peers. That probably was true, and those skills haven’t really gone away. What I didn’t realize then, thanks to the stupidity of being a teenager, that there’s a lot more to a story than just proper usage of words and construction of sentences. I was more interested in exploring terrible fanfiction, swiping ideas not just from the games I had played, but others I had read to try to create an amalgam of new and familiar.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas of my own. I had written a bunch of also terrible original work around the same time, both for school and for my own enjoyment. I’d fallen into a lot of traps, of course – thinking that my work was great, unable to really think about it critically. It was about churning out stuff for pageviews, comments, and so on. Basically, I had no integrity as an artist, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
Of course, these are the usual traps of the novice writer or artist. The important thing was to learn from these mistakes, which I have to a degree. But going through and doing NaNo, writing at a hectic pace, it felt much like thirteen years ago. Back when I wrote at the seat of my pants. Yes, I had a ton of stuff done ahead of time for what I did for NaNo, but unfortunately I didn’t have any coherent plot written out beforehand, only backstory.
The one critical flaw in the stuff I write is plot and plot resolution. This is also, coincidentally, the most important part in writing fiction. I know people say that NaNo is more about just getting up and doing something, but I have too much pride to just spew out words. Looking back, the story has some good spots, some bad spots. It needs a lot of work, most of which was due, in my opinion, to the lack of a coherent plot structure and outline before I started.
No amount of flowery prose can save a boring plot. I’m not sure how much copious editing can, either. I guess this is why I got out of that business – I realized that my overinflated self-opinion was the problem, and that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Was this story for NaNo better than that earlier written work? Absolutely. But better in this case is not good enough.