Well, we’re more than halfway through November, so, if you joined in this amazing writing fest, are you over halfway through the 50,000 words needed to win NaNoWriMo?
When I decided to do it again this year my reasons were not pure. I have written a first draft of a novel every November since 2013 and I have published each one in due course the following year. Although I can usually write that first draft no problem in the month, it takes me many more months to edit, polish and publish each one.
This year, I didn’t think I could manage to do another novel, what with one thing and another, but I did have last year’s rough first draft hanging around, so I decided my challenge this year was to write the second draft.
The reason I decided to go for NaNoWriMo at all this year was because I couldn’t bring myself not to. The thought of breaking my seven year run was too much for me. So here I am, just over halfway through the month and more than halfway through the second draft. Yipee!
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. It’s far from ‘National’ now. People from all over the world join in these days, tens of thousands of them. Many of them ‘win’. And that’s the thing about NaNoWriMo, everyone who completes the 50,000 word count is a winner. And can I tell you, that’s a great feeling.
The reason I do it every year is the motivation it provides to stick in and write every day. Before 2013, it could take me years to write the first draft of a novel, let alone the years that then went into editing and polishing it. By the third novel I wrote and published, I’d gotten it down to months, but still too many months, to write a first draft. And the reason it took me so long was simple. I didn’t write every day.
When you don’t write every day, in my experience, you lose the flow of the piece and each time you open the manuscript, you have to look back, sometimes all the way to the beginning and read yourself back into it. That takes time, sometimes a lot of time.
Writing every day, your story never quite leaves your consciousness and it is much easier to pick up where you left off. Especially if you stop in mid-flow, which is a trick I learned somewhere along my writing career.
Of course, NaNoWriMo has its critics. What doesn’t? There are those who say it’s not possible to write a book in a month, and I actually agree, with one proviso. I don’t believe it is possible to write a GOOD book in a month. It’s perfectly possible to write a good first draft in that time. In fact most of the first drafts I have written during that month have been well over the 50,000 word count. It’s possible to write over 100,000 words in a month if you have the time, a good outline, good planning, and the health and energy to write at least 3,334 words every single day. I know some writers can do that and more in a day. I’m afraid I can’t.
But it’s not the volume of words that make a good novel. It’s the quality. The quality choice of words, of sentence structure, and the quality of the story telling. And I doubt there are many writers who have published a GOOD first draft. I know far too many who have published a poor one. And that, unfortunately is what draws the criticism.
Again, I can only speak from my own experience but for me writing the first draft is the easy part. Taking on board the critique of Alpha readers, Beta readers, rewriting, editing, proofreading, these are the time consuming and work intensive parts of writing a novel. And I don’t believe they should be skipped. Even books published by mainstream publishers go through that process, so I don’t believe it’s a process that should ever be neglected. Not if you want to truly WIN NaNoWriMo.
But I’d welcome your thoughts on the subject.