Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo, Writing Fast, and Revision

by Dave White

I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo. Well sort of. What I'm actually doing is cheating. I'm not changing what I'm working on. I'm just adding to it, giving myself more projects, and trying to keep track of a total word count.

I've always kind of had a problem with NaNoWriMo. Not the idea that pushes people to write, which is always a great thing, but because it pushes people to write fast. And that's it.

I tend to think people get into NaNoWriMo, think they'll write their 50K and that'll be it.

That is far from the case. Your novel is not done then. It's not even close to done. After you write your 50K or your 70K or your 80K or whatever, the work is just getting started.

I don't write fast. I've never been able to.

And even when I'm done with that first draft, I still have to work on a 7 or 8 drafts. I have read my current work in progress a ton of times. I'm not sure it's done yet. I keep thinking its done and then more problems creep up.

The rumor is a lot of old pulp novelists used to write books in a weekend. While I'm sure that's possible, my guess is they then had to revise a lot. Or had their editor revise for them.

So my advice to NaNoWriMo-ers out there? Go ahead, bash out your 50K and finish your draft, but as John Green says up above, it's not done. Write fast all you want, but expect to revise slow. To get it right and ready, prepare to pore over the book and keep working on it.

Get ready to go back and work on it some more.


John McFetridge said...

Yeah these kinds of things can be great for getting a first draft down pn paper.

The first book I had published, Below the Line, was co-written with Scott Albert for the Three Day Novel Writing Competition.

We didn't win, but we did have a first draft which we revised quite a bit (and added to) and sent to quite a few publishers before one bought it.

If NaNoWriMo helps to get a draft done great, but as you say, remember it's the first draft.

Steve Weddle said...

I imagine NaNoWriMo is the reason agents go on vacation for the month of December.

Anonymous said...

I'm passing on Nanowrimo this year. But I did it the last four years. As you say, great for getting down a rough draft. And yes, revision has been slow. I finally finished edits on my first Nano novel only last summer. This is a process that works well for me, though - quick first draft, to shut off the internal editor, then all the time in the world to revise and rethink and polish.

Dana King said...

I've never done a NaNoWriMo. I'm good about slogging forward to complete a first draft, and they're crappy enough without rushing them. I know I'm going to have to at least half a dozen more drafts, and I have no contract, so there's no deadline. Where's the fire?

Evan Lewis said...

I'm a slow writer, too, Dave, so I'm trying this just to light a fire under my butt. Writing 1700 words a day is easy, but writing stuff that will be useful in the second draft is much harder. My problem is I got the bug too late and didn't get my plot nailed down before Nov. 1. Still, I'm enjoying the pressure.