Crikey! I’ve just “won” NaNoWriMo!
For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The mission, if you choose to accept it, is to get 50,000 words written between 1st and 30th November. It might be a new story idea, or part of a longer work in progress. The main thing is to get words on the page and leave the editing for later.
A few days into the challenge, I saw a post on Twitter: What’s the crack with NaNoWriMo? If you want to write a book, just get on and write one!
Well yes. I agree. You don’t have to wait for November, and you don’t have to write a novel in a month, but there is a sort of “wind beneath my wings” vibe about the whole NaNoWriMo thing that is rather irresistible.
Everyone who takes part is going to have their own personal goal, which might not be 50,000 words, and that’s fine. Two years ago, I joined the NaNoWriMo train to help me through writing the partial for my second Mills and Boon romance, Italian Summer with the Single Dad. So my goal was 15,000 words which I achieved. I didn’t get a winner’s badge, but I was more than satisfied.
This time around, I had a partial written (but it needed a lot of work) so effectively I was starting from scratch. I spent the first week editing and augmenting my partial, turning three chapters into five. After that, I was breaking new ground, slashing my way through deepest, darkest NaNoWriMo territory.
My overall goal was to write differently to the way I usually write. I’m normally a one step forward, two steps back kind of writer, which translates into “slow”. I write a section, then the next day I read it over, editing and polishing before I’m ready to move on. The benefit of editing as you write is that when you write “The End”, you really have finished (discounting the revisions your editor comes back with of course). The disadvantage is that if you hit a bump with the story at some point, then you’re in the sorry position of having to discard possibly large chunks of “perfect writing”.
So, for me, taking part in NaNo this year was about experimentation. How did it go? On the whole, it went well, but at the 40,000 word mark I fell into a plot hole. It became clear that important elements of my story hadn’t been developed fully enough to sustain the forward momentum. I spent a day telling myself that it was all over, that I’d have to fix the middle of my story before I could move on. But then I remembered the spirit of NaNoWriMo…the whole “you can’t edit a blank page” thing, so I clambered back onto the horse and looked to the horizon. Yes, the middle of my story was going to need major surgery but there were still critical plot points that I could write, things that had to happen. I focused on those and carried on. I wrote some nice scenes (and some scenes that might end up in the bin) but the main thing was, I kept writing, and the more I got down, the more I learned about my characters. The last three hundred words are
probably definitely going in the bin, but hey, I crossed the finish line, so yaay!
It’s too soon for me to say if I will go back to my old writing method or not, but what I can say is that writing a story to get the story down, and not worrying about style or word choice (too much!) has given me a good overview of my story and the things I need to fix (many, many things!) When I go back in, maybe that overview will make the editing easier. Fingers crossed.
So…to NaNo or not to NaNo?