Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nanoo Nanoo NaNoWriMo!

Ha! I made the first NaNoWriMo post this year!

I think I make the only one every year... just your annual reminder that the flood of word counts in your social media feed is driven by National Novel Writing Month, where folks who sign up try to write 50,000 words in the month of November and complete a novel.

which makes December National Don't Bother Querying Agents Month, because a flood of new writers often flood the slush piles with unedited manuscripts.

Don't be that writer.

Plenty of pro writers often join in on NaNoWriMo because the energy is infectious, and the challenge is enticing. My first draft of Bad Boy Boogie was completed during NaNoWriMo 2011, which gives you an idea of how good that draft was. It was published in 2016. The first draft was called Beat the Jinx and focused on Tony instead of Jay, who was a ghostly possible antagonist who kept pestering Tony for help. I decided that he made a more compelling hero, and gutted other characters, some who appeared in the manuscript I finished last month, which is a comedy with a very different tone. So, NaNoWriMo can be useful, but don't forget that....

March is National Novel Editing Month. But that's three whole months after NaNoWriMo! Why yes. That gives you time to flesh it out to a larger novel if required, then take a well deserved rest before you read it and make notes before you dig into edits. Stephen King recommends sticking a novel in a drawer for three months, but that's a bit much. A month, sure. Rest, or work on something else. A short story. Catch up on the TV you missed. Read some great fiction in the same bailiwick as yours, so you can catch hackneyed characters and "surprises" that are so old they have whiskers on them.

And then... edit. It's not as if agents are going to be reading lots of manuscripts during the holiday month of December, anyway. And an unedited novel... leave that to the pros. Some can edit in their heads. They often learned to write on a manual typewriter, so they have advantage. I seriously considered buying one, before the typewriter shop in my town closed... two years ago. Sarah (my wife) objected, and I have managed to find other ways to edit as I go, without reverting to 19th century technology. And I was recently vindicated when Reed Farrel Coleman, who considers this a "first draft," says he edits as he goes. That does only produce one draft, but to new writers, saying you only write one draft sounds like the words fly from your fingertips perfectly the first time, which is discouraging when you hit the backspace key with such regularity that you could easily serve as a telegraph operator if you found yourself transported to the past.

An aside--I've never understood the yearning for the past. Can you imagine what the past smelled like? Not for me. It's nice to fantasize about, but, gimme penicillin and human rights, thanks.

I've been chunking away at Jay Desmarteaux #2 at a good clip, using Scrivener and its goal-setting function so I'm done by January. I am toying with the idea of jumping on the NaNoWriMo train and aiming for 1300 words per day in November. It's a bigger challenge than the 800 I need per day to meet the January deadline, but if I finish in December I'll have more time to rest and edit before sending it to my publisher and his editor. And I've been hitting 1500 words a night easily, so why not? As Lawrence Block says about the daily thousand words, "you can't write four lousy pages?"

Well, not everyone can. And there's no shame in it. NaNoWriMo isn't for everybody. It can be a good way to open the floodgates and see what you can write when you free yourself to let the fingers fly. As Joyce Carol Oates says, dare to trust your voice and dare to write from the heart. It may look embarrassing at first, but write for yourself first and foremost. You're a reader. Never forget that.

Next Wednesday, the race begins...


Holly West said...

Every freakin' year I start something for Nanowrimo, and every freakin' year I don't finish because I remind myself of my still unfinished WIP that I started in Nanowrimo in 2013. And when I say "unfinished," I actually mean unedited/polished. I finished the first draft two years ago.

So obviously, don't be me. .

Sigh. I never learn.

Thomas Pluck said...

This year breaks the habit. join me... with that book you're working on :)