Entries in process (2)
Whew! Last night I finished writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (which ends tonight at midnight). See www.nanowrimo.org for more about this challenging event. This is the third year in a row I’ve participated and “won” by hitting the 50K target, and it was a terrific experience.
In a celebratory chat with a writing buddy who finished up today, we agreed that going through the NaNoWriMo process taught us or reinforced at least three valuable lessons. Here they are:
· Nothing motivates like a deadline. (This is an especially powerful one for former journalists).
· If you get stuck and find yourself bored with the story, try writing a sex scene. This works, honestly, although we could come up with no good explanation for why. While this particular technique is perhaps more useful to novel writers than someone preparing a corporate PowerPoint, the more universal take-home here may be that venturing off the track from the main story (or your primary topic) and exploring the unexpected side paths gets the brain’s wheels unstuck from the rut.
· By devoting a set amount of time each day to the process or by hitting a target amount of daily writing output, you can complete a large, daunting project – whether it’s drafting a novel, putting together that how-to guide or writing a long article for a prestigious professional journal.
The end result of this November madness is not a great novel – or even a coherent one, not yet. What I do have is a draft manuscript that made me laugh while I was writing it, a treasure trove of quirky information gleaned during my on-the-fly research, and a mass of raw material that I can revise, add to, and polish into something readable. Perhaps more importantly, the month’s work has brought me a renewed appreciation for the writing process, and added to my storehouse of tips and tricks for getting writing projects done.
Congratulations to my fellow NaNoWriMo participants, wherever in the world you are!
For fun, this month I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo), which means I have made a pact with myself and thousands of other NaNoWriMo participants that I will write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel between November 1 and November 30. Tonight I got that word count up over 10,000 words, so I'm one-fifth of the way there.
Is it deathless prose or great literature? Not at all, not yet -- it's presently a glorious mess of characters and plot threads that skitter off in contradictory, unexpected directions. And that's what makes it so much fun. Because this is my third year doing NaNoWriMo, I know that whenever my inner professional editor pipes up and starts fretting about sentence structure or plot continuity, I simply need to remind that editor and myself that my goal is to pound out the draft this month. I reassure the editor that I can clean up later, during the revision process, and then get back to writing that draft.
I think of participating in NaNoWriMo -- or the drafting phase of any writing project -- as being much like a kid who has been allowed to take out the art supplies and create, without worrying about whether she's wiping up the spilled paint or erasing the smudges as she goes along. The time for cleaning up is after the party. Earlier today, I was talking to a book editing client who told me how helpful she found this analogy when she was in the process of revising and reshaping the manuscript for the second edition of her book. It helped to free her up to just write new sections and rearrange others without getting stuck in "self-edit mode" when she needed to be creating. Yes, the editing is vitally important for a polished end product, but trying to edit and draft at the same time can bring a project to a standstill.
So have that messy party first -- you can clean it up later! And if you want to know more about National Novel Writing Month, visit www.nanowrimo.org for more info.