Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Why It's A Good Thing

Back when I first started writing I would sit in a chair for 10-14 hours per day and bang out my first draft. Those drafts would require a minimum of eight or nine edits to get them passable. As I got older that many hours in a chair became crippling so I slowed down and spent more time on the draft, constantly rewriting. The number of edits required dropped a bit, but so did my productivity. I had to find a happy medium. Then came NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is a one-month long event held every November. It has a couple of purposes: collect a group of folks who are dying to put words on page and then entice them to do just that.

To achieve that aim NaNoWriMo creates a huge online community of writers, some published, some not, and coerces them to achieve a certain number of words per day. I participated in NaNoWriMo a few years back and generated a 75k word draft of my third Time Rovers novel in thirty days. Now to do that you have to have one focus: words on page. These are not great words, nor are they printable words. 50K words over 30 days = 1667 words per day. That's manageable. That's how pro authors get their books finished - one word at a time. By committing to those 50K words you are acknowledging that no matter how rough life gets, you will get your word count for the day. At the end of the month you will have a *start* on your novel.

Now no one shows up on your doorstep and points a loaded crossbow at your head to ensure you achieve wordcount. That's up to you. Peer pressure helps, but ultimately it's your fingers on the keyboard, on the typewriter or scribbling on a notepad. Word Count. That's what matters. Some folks meet during NaNo and do group writing events. I'm more of a loner so I type away on my own. Ultimately it's all about getting those words out of my brain.

What NaNo did for me:
1) It broke me of my obsessive editing of the first draft.
2) See #1.

Now I write all my drafts like that, committing to a minimum of # number of words per day according to my writing schedule but not being so stupid as to spend too many hours in the chair. I usually average about 2K (8 pages) but sometimes I roar up to 3K. In the end I have a rough draft. Then I make at least three more passes (sometimes more) through the manuscript before an editor ever sees it. I did exactly that with the first book in my DEMON TRAPPERS Series and will do the same with the next two. Sometimes I plot out a bit ahead, usually I just go where the story takes me. It's the journey that counts.

Because of this I enjoy that first draft stage a lot more, I don't kill my body and I can plan out exactly how long it will take me to produce a book. That last bit is exceptionally important since I sign a contract specifying when I will turn in that manuscript. If you're thinking of giving NaNoWriMo a spin, go for it. It's fun. And at the end of November you can say you've been writing a novel. It's a very nice thing to admit.

1 comment:

Shelby said...

I'm doing the nanowrimo thing this year for the first time.. so exicted! cheers and good luck to you!