The fall is approaching rapidly and with that comes for many writers their preparation for NaNoWriMo. Every November a wonderful group of writers join together across nations to try their hands at completing 50,000 words in a month. National Novel Writing Month. The plan is not to work on a current project, but rather to begin a new one and focus only on getting the words on the page. No editing, no self-recrimination, no letting the daily grind get in the way—just write.
It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? We want to write. Here is a full month in which you tell your family they are on their own for dinners. They need to channel surf quietly. They must understand that you are a writer and offer the respect that comes with that commitment. After all, you have pledged to write those 50,000 words and they should honor their belief in you give you the space to do that.
I did it two years in a row. Not this year. Why? I found that the focus was great. The word production was fantastic. The family did just fine. BUT. What I wrote took an extreme amount of editing. Two years ago I had a great idea- a sure winner. No doubt about it. I wrote a quick outline for a story that was surly to be a winner. As I was pounding out the pages meeting my daily quotas I stalled. It was dragging. No problem at all I thought.
So, I wrote scene after scene that I was sure would be important to the book. They just happened to be out of order. This certainly wouldn’t be an issue for I’d fix it in the editing process. I was accomplishing two important tasks at once. First, I was capturing parts of the story that might have been lost if I let the writing wait until I really got to that part. And, second, I was meeting my daily word count. Seems clear.
When the month was over (Thanksgiving was squeezed in there somewhere) I looked at my pages. Yup, I made the 50,000 word goal and received a computer generated plaque to hang on my office wall. And, the trouble began.
I took the scenes, printed each on separate pages, and laid them out on my long dining room table like playing cards. My outline gave me a full picture of what it needed to look like. Easy from here. I’d just shuffle the scenes into the order that would match my overall plan. Right?
It was a mess. A total mess. It took me a year to work through all the pieces that were missing, out of timing, wrong POV, lacking transition…the list is longer than that. I still think it’s a darn good story. It has lived on a thumb drive for three years. In its current state, it deserves to stay there. But I know it has wonderful potential.
I hope the NaNoWriMo group continues. I wish it all the best. Truly. It has launched winning writers. It has turned kids into writers. It has inspired many who thought they never could do it that, YES, they can. But, I wish they’d send someone here to rearrange all my scenes to make my 50,000 words into something that you’d want to read.
We need to write in our own style. We need to respect what works for us. Outlines, yes/no? Plotting, yes/no? 1200 words a day, yes/no. Writing from home, sneaking time at the office, booking a table at Starbucks, yes/no.
NaNoWriMo, I love you. I respect you. I applaud you. But, I will watch with excitement as I hear of your success as I stand on the sidelines.