I read an article recently from someone who said all that was to be accomplished by participating in National Novel Writing Month(NaNo) was writing a crappy novel. I totally agree, but not in the way that the author meant for me to. If you write a novel in 30 days with NaNo WriMo you will have a sucky novel that you would be humiliated for people to read.
It’s called a first draft.
Jacques Barzun says to “let the first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.” I’d go further and say let it all be stupid because the first draft is not the end of it. That’s exactly what NaNo lets you do. One horrible sentence at a time you put words to page and at the end you have something that either is a first draft of a novel or could someday be a complete first draft of a novel.
What you do next is revise it.
NaNo helped me immensely in the getting-down-to-business department after years of not writing in a disciplined, consistent way. During the month of NaNo last November and the NaNo camp I did in July, I completed more of my novel than I have during all the days in between. I am going to participate in NaNo again this November in the hope that by December 1st I will have one big, messy story ready to be revised.
Here’s what I recommend: participate in NaNo and have a plan for when it’s over. If you are like me, this will be when the rubber refuses to hit the road any longer and the short break you’re taking from your novel after so much focused attention will end up being months. Here’s my post-NaNo plan:
Figure out why NaNo works for me and keep doing it after November 30th.
D did not love NaNo when he participated, probably because he didn’t really need it. He works on projects until they are complete, daily trudging along whether he is in the mood or not. He’s a real live grown person.
NaNo works for me, but I can easily fall off the wagon when it’s over. I want to figure out the magic this time around. Am I just a sprinter and not a marathoner? Do I need to set a word count for myself every single day? Is watching that little arrow on the website go up each day really the carrot I’m chasing? When I figure it out, I will trap myself into recreating the magic.
Think past the last word.
One of the things I’m most excited about when I think of finishing the novel is revising. I know, revising is hard and exhausting, but the book is written. I can make it better instead of create it from scratch. Right now, that seems like less work. I may disagree when I get started. I’m also ready to have friends help me revise. I am blessed enough to have people in my life who truly cheer each other on and get excited for milestones in the lives of those they love. Having those individuals help me make this book better sounds great! When it gets tough, I focus on what happens when it’s finished (and maybe on having revision parties that involve finger food desserts, coffee and Scrabble. Maybe I’m just looking for a way to make revising a novel a slumber party. Hard to tell.)
Keep reading awesome books.
All the time. Never stop reading. If you want to know about the current books I can’t get off my mind they would be:
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Girl at War by Sara Novic
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
If these authors hadn’t finished these books, that would have been a tragedy. That alone keeps me writing, not because I expect to pop out a masterpiece but because I think finishing is a victory in itself, especially in a world that rewards instant everything and has an attention span of 2.4 seconds.
If you decide to NaNo, friend me and we can offer encouragement (and sometimes maybe yell at me if you suspect I’m eating chocolate in lieu of writing).
Regardless of what anyone says, I think NaNo is a great tool for hesitant project finishers like me. I am a procrastinator for life, friends. I’ll write all about that tomorrow. J