Why I don’t feel bad about giving up on NaNoWriMo this year

Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins is the fifth rough draft I’ve gotten out of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). But this is the first time I’ve attempted to finish NaNoWriMo while going to school full time, working 18 hours/week, and commuting 12 hours/week. It was ridiculously optimistic of me to attempt it in the first place, but that’s me. Here I must quote my self-adopted fairy godmother: “Love, as we have already discussed, is a powerful, wonderful, ridiculous thing, capable of moving mountains. And spools of thread.” —Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux. And yeah, I really wanted this year’s really cool winner’s T-shirt with the knight facing down the 50k-dragon, but there are more important things. Also, I don’t need another T-shirt.

I’m not giving up on the story itself (Don’t worry, Colleen!), just on the goal of finishing a rough draft of 50,000 words by Saturday (I’m at 26,000-something, I think). Finishing this story has no deadline, but finishing my research paper does. And because I’m writing my research paper on Snow White, the work I’m doing feels like a legitimate contribution to my research.

That’s why I took this class (Contested Bodies: Representations of Martyrdom) in the first place, as research for this novel. I’ve spent this quarter fascinated by all we’ve been learning, synthesizing it within myself, and using that to fuel me forward in both my novel and my research paper. And, because my professor has been skeptical about this paper from (quite literally) Day 1, I’ve also been fueled by a feeling of righteous defensiveness.

I argue that Snow White is a martyr because the Brothers Grimm turned her into one. They took bits and pieces of stories from the oral tradition that were not necessarily religious in nature, fused them together with their own beliefs, and created a deeply Christian story of a sweet little virgin martyr. There’s so much I want to go into. Did you know, for example, that most of the Grimms’ sources were female, but were never credited by name? Did you know that in the original story, it is Snow White’s biological mother, not a stepmother, who jealously tries to kill her? Did you know that, back in the day, all you had to do to be a Christian female martyr was 1- be Christian, 2- be a virgin, and 3- die? Did you know that in art and literature, glass has traditionally been a metaphor for virginity, so the dwarfs are then trapping her in that identity when they put her in a glass coffin? Guh, this is all so friggin’ fascinating and I just want to study and watch and read and write fairy tales forever. (I get to watch “Grimm” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Maleficent” and call it research. My life is awesome.) I finish by arguing that since the Grimms and Disney, we haven’t been content to let Snow White stay a demure, docile damsel in distress. Every time we’ve retold her story, we’ve given her a personality, a purpose, and a weapon.

I think I’ll post the paper here when I’m done, because I’ve been putting a ton of effort into it, and it deserves to be read by more people than just my professor. And that’s why I don’t feel bad about giving up on NaNoWriMo this year. I’m going to end up with a badass piece of work, it will just be my research paper instead of my novel. The novel’s deadline is indefinite and self-imposed. The paper’s deadline is in a week and a half. Time to get back to work.

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