It’s the last week of October, which can only mean one thing… It’s almost time for NaNoWriMo!
I’m really excited about NaNoWriMo this year, more than I’ve ever been before. See, even though I’m an “active writer” and even have my MFA in Creative Writing (not needed for writing, but see the point I’m about to make) I must have been living under a rock – because I had never heard of National Novel Writing Month until 2013. And my peers in grad school have participated for years! In 2013, I found out later into the month, so while I wanted to participate, and even signed up, I still missed out and never got started. Last year I was ready and did participate and it really wasn’t what I thought it would be, or do what I thought it would do.
This will be my second year participating in National Novel Writing Month, and I’m much more excited/prepared/focused/determined/wise this time around than I was last year. I like to think that last year’s participation taught me a few things too.
Make no mistake, last year I achieved my goal. I finished with 50,117 words on a novel I had been thinking of/inspired to write/procrastinating on for about six years. I was excited to dive in, and really have that be the start, so I could finally knock a draft of the novel out. But while I reached my 50,000 words by the end of the month, my larger goal of having it kickstart my novel never really panned out. And I know the reason why.
Last year I was focused on writing, but not the writing. It was all about the word count, and I mean, writing nearly 1,668 words every day without fail to make the goal – that’s a lot tougher than a lot of people think. Yes, I write more than that on a daily basis, but that’s if I include multiple projects, blogs, etc. This has to be only one project; a longer form of fiction. Getting to that word count means skipping around (seriously I went all over the place, back and forth, within my novel) and getting creative. I tend to be a wordy writer, and I find it helpful to cut away that first layer of “word fat” before I finish a first draft. But for NaNoWriMo, not only did I keep the fat, I sought it out. I wanted to beef up the word count any way I could that wouldn’t be considered cheating. I mean anyone can just say they wrote 50,000 words, but where is the fun in that?
But part of the problem is that Nano is all about writing 50,000 words – it’s all about the word count. You have daily updates and the pressure is on. NaNoWriMo buddies and social media platforms just raise the stakes. Don’t get me wrong, friends who are also participating and daily word count updates are great. They make you accountable. But for me, these things also contributed to my own demise, or at least that of my novel.
I got stuck on word counts. I was writing, and focused on just “getting it out”. It wasn’t my best writing, or more accurately, my best “first draft” writing. And some of it is not usable – like at all. Not the majority, which still needs to be finessed, revised, edited, etc. but I would say about 10% was writing I bullshitted, scenes I knew I didn’t need, but wrote them off as character-building when they weren’t, just to make that final word count.
This year I’m hoping to focus not only on how much I’m writing, but the actual writing. Because I only want to write the things that matter, rather than “fat” I know I’m going to cut away as soon as the month is over. And the writing itself, I can think that it sucks, but I don’t want to think that it sucks more than usual.
I was so down about my writing last year, I didn’t even look at the novel I worked on until a few days ago. I have to say that a majority of it is not as bad as I feared, but the parts and sections that were, obviously traumatized me or something. 😛 This year I don’t plan on just dropping my novel when the month is over. I want to work on it, revise it, and expand on it if necessary. I want to make it work. Because the novel I am working on this year, while very different from last year, has been in my head for a few months now. The characters are alive, and I see scenes, and I am genuinely excited about what the book is allowing me to do – the fantasies I am able to live out in the story, and they actually are relevant and important to said story!
I think another big difference is that last year I wrote about something that fascinated me, but I didn’t know much about it. This year I am writing about something that fascinates me, but it has fascinated me for two decades, so I have read countless books on the subject and actually “know my stuff”. And because this isn’t a brand-new idea, I have been heavy into the research, and loving it since March of this year. This helps, because I won’t feel the need to “research” while I write and if I need to look something up, I’ll know just where to look.
I’m not sure if I am going to focus on one novel, or focus the series as a whole. Because my idea is a series and I already have a few books/installments mapped out. I’m going to try to stick to a single novel mind you, but I don’t want to fall into any of the trappings that I did last year. Either way, I feel much more confident and much less clueless going into November. And unlike last year, I know the importance of truly writing every day – no skipping! (Seriously last year, I started out behind and I would have three crazy-productive days and two days of nothing and so on and so on. The entire month I was playing catch up – not fun.)
So here I go into NaNoWriMo 2015! Who is with me? 😉
Happy writing, everyone!