Bwahaha. Such a hopeful blog title with such a sad purpose: to tell you all that I failed, and failed horribly at Camp NaNoWriMo 2012. I came in at a whopping 4969 words, falling 45031 short of the goal of 50,000. Not even 10%. Pathetic.
But while I wasn't writing very much, I was thinking about writing, about why I want to write and what always makes writing so hard for me. The why is really the tougher part - I've wanted to write since I was very young. While other kids were saying that they wanted to be a teacher (I sometimes said that) or a firefighter or a doctor or a waitress (I sometimes said that too), I was usually saying that I wanted to be "an author." From when I was little I knew I wanted to write out of my love for reading. I remember sitting down in the third grade and penning, not a story, but a list of titles of the stories I would write. I remember that one such title was "Pans of Blood." My literary tastes have clearly changed since then.
In the seventh grade I finally wrote my first book: Believe in the Ouija, which was a poorly edited tale of a boarding school where a Ouija board predicts mysterious disappearances, and included a lovely teacher whose place has been stolen by her evil yet genetically-identical twin sister (can you guess who did it?). I took it upon myself to mail my manuscript to Random House and actually received a thoughtful, and very kind response (though it lacked feedback on my actual writing).
In college writing classes I had no problem meeting my deadlines and was generally happy with my work. I wrote an honors thesis my senior year consisting of five connected short stories that won me a couple of awards (including some cash). After graduating, I completed one NaNoWriMo a couple of year ago, though it was a bit of a mishmash of various unfinished stories that I never returned to.
So what's stopping me? I think the main problem is that my writing bores me. I tend to write what I call quiet stories: about people and their lives, without a central plot or overarching conflict. I like reading these kinds of stories, and I think I even do a decent job of writing them (see cash prize). But it's hard to keep going with them because I just get so bored. So I've been doing a more conscious job of determining what about the books I read makes me want to read and ultimately emulate them.
I was reading A Storm of Swords when I first started thinking about this and looked up some stuff about GRRM's writing, and was overwhelmed by how much care when into his world-building: from the design of surnames based on geography and ancestry to the inclusion of details like almond milk, which apparently is not such a modern hippie product, but actually was used in the Middle Ages. Now I'm reading A Prayer for Owen Meany (and remembering The Cider House Rules), and am blown away by how Irving creates his places, complete with a history and an environment with clear effects on the characters. And I think I have my answer. Or at least part of it.
The major thing that my writing is lacking is place. I deal too much with characters' thoughts and motivations without developing the world around them. I don't think I could create a world like in Game of Thrones, at least not without a lot more time than I currently have, but I definitely think I could and should do more on the level of what Irving creates: a real place that is a much a character as the people, that contributes to the development of the human characters, that gives things a sense of reality.
So that's what I'm going to work towards from now on. Who knows if it'll make a difference but that's what I'm leaning towards.
Any advice for a hopeful writer bored with her work is most welcome here. As confused as I currently am by my motivation to write, I still know that it's what I want and am not ready to give up.