On losing

On losing

I have a theory why online auction sites are so successful, as compared to regular online retailers. Auction sites allow you to win. And winning feels nice.

Think about it: shopping in and of itself makes us feel good. The buyer’s remorse comes later, of course, but at that moment you hand over your cash and take possession of that object that you have coveted for who knows how long, your body gets flooded with all manner of feel-good hormones. (Come to think of it, one could probably consider buyer’s remorse the hangover that occurs when one come off the high produced by this particular naturally produced drug.)

But auction sites take it a step further. Even before you hold that coveted item in your hands you get to experience the unsurpassed joy that’s produced when the message flashes across the screen that you have won the auction.

Everyone likes winning. As such, the concept of winning is very useful in motivating people to do crazy stuff (consider Minute to Win It, Wipe-Out and Takeshi’s Castle) like writing a novel. Last year I won NaNoWriMo, and it felt great. This year I didn’t. This year, this happened:

National Novel Writing Month 2014 StatsI lost big time. But I did not fail at NaNoWriMo. I was writing the whole month, even if I wasn’t putting any words on the page.

I got over my emotional bump quickly enough, but even then I was unable to get that word count moving. In hindsight, this was a good thing. It gave me time to think.

I came to the realisation I need to start over again. Reading back over what I had already written I saw that I had fallen into the common rookie-trap of info-dumping. Oh, I did it well, with plenty of dialogue and action, but it was still info-dumping. I also decided to change the setting once more. It’s now moving local (write what you know, and all that), for the first act, at least.

But the bigger problem is that of the antagonist. I realised I need one. That is, I have one already, but the story is full of secrets and people not being what they appear to be. This has created a problem: once the various subterfuges are revealed, which will happen around the middle of the novel, there will be no more antagonist and by implication no more tension driving the plot. I need to up the stakes for all the characters, lest the entire story falls flat halfway through the second act. I’m thinking a true bad guy might do the trick.

Of course, all this means a completely new outline, and that’s what I’m doing at present. And then I will start my third attempt at my third attempt at a first draft (no, that wasn’t a typo).

I’m starting to get that Hemingway quote. You know the one. Does it get easier as one goes on?

11 thoughts on “On losing

      1. I’ll be hosting a writing challenge starting in January… in case you’re missing my topics. Will I see you there? (I’ll be sending out the URL through my main blog in a couple of weeks.)

  1. My first NaNo was … no, NOT a disaster. A disappointment, I guess. My graph looked pretty much like yours did. I figured out about halfway in that I had positioned the wrong character as the main protagonist, and that there was no real plot, just a series of interwoven stories – which sounded great when I started writing that way, but in fact it sucked. So I’m back to scratching my head … but I’ll get there. And the great thing is, without NaNo I would never have put myself under enough pressure to realize what the problem was. The story would have limped along and then rolled over and died, without me ever being forced to figure out why.

    1. Exactly. It’s like another blogger I follow kept saying throughout November, it’s not about winning, it’s about writing. And if NaNo got us going, then it was a success. The important thing is that we now keep on writing and actually finish the darn thing.

      1. Exactly! Sounds to me like you definitely won NaNo because by writing to a certain point, you figured out what was needed to make your novel work. Which is excellent & makes it definitely worthwhile. No writing is wasted, including the stuff thrown into the bin and replaced by the Improved Mk II version, if you get what I mean.

      2. And here the blogger I just mentioned chimes in as well 😀

        I totally get what you mean, Matthew. Even the stuff that goes into the bin counts toward that million words as well, after all.

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