National Novel Writing Month. A 50,000 word manuscript written in 30 days. Sounds like a dream, right? Get that novel down on paper (well, typed on the computer for most of us) and in a month you’re suddenly an author. Sounds great. Here’s my experience.
For NaNoWriMo this year, I had just finished a first draft of my second novel in the series I am writing three days before November started. As I had to put that draft aside and wait six weeks to get some space from it before revising, I decided to try for the third novel. I succeeded. I won. Yay!
Here are my thoughts on NaNoWriMo. It’s a great idea, in theory. In practice, I found it very different from how I would normally write. Normally, I write when I’m motivated and I have some time to put towards it. This month, I forced myself to sit down every day and write. And write. And write. I managed to finish my novel with a week to spare to spare in the month. Great, right?
I’m not sure. Normally, since I write when I’m really motivated, the words I put down on the page are words I trust and often really like. With this, I found myself writing just because I knew I had to. This means that sometimes I was just throwing words down on the page to get to the word counts I was supposed to have. I managed to write my novel of 80,517 words in about three weeks, and this scares me.
In general, when I find I’m not motivated to add more words to a manuscript, the reason for it tends to be good. Maybe things aren’t going exactly as they should be, maybe I need a plot twist or one of the characters is feeling emotionally insecure about things but I haven’t noticed yet. Maybe I need a change of direction, where I had thought I was going was just not going to work.
I think in part it is because I am completely a pantser when it comes to writing. For those planners out there, who have a detailed plot with characters already developed, it might be easier to just get those words on the page and you know the story will work. For me, each scene, each action of a character has consequences. Sometimes I need time to process them before I continue writing, before I see how the characters will respond to it.
This time, I just plowed through it all and kept writing. Ordinarily, problems would eat at me until I realized exactly what the next move is. So what does that mean for this manuscript? Is it complete crap? Probably not. Is it going to need a lot more revising than my previous manuscripts? Yeah, probably. Okay, definitely.
I enjoy writing. Not as much as I enjoy reading, but I find when I’m writing, I feel more of a sense of satisfaction than when reading, a sense that I’ve accomplished something. Revision on the other hand is tedious for me. I’m working on the seventh draft of my first manuscript now and I continuously find things I need to change. No such thing as perfect, right? Does this mean I might need to do an extra few drafts for this manuscript? Maybe.
The interesting part is that I just don’t know right now. Until I go through the manuscript again, I won’t have an idea how badly I messed anything up or what I got right. To do that though, I need emotional and intellectual distance from the manuscript. So guess what? It’ll be six weeks before I even look at it again. During that time, I have two other manuscripts that need revising.
So to conclude. It’s pretty cool that I wrote a novel in three weeks. Depending on my reading of that draft though, it might have been better to have taken the two months to do it right the first time. Just my thoughts as I sit here now, an official NaNoWriMo winner.