It’s almost October. While all normal people are starting to plan their Halloween costumes, we writers are starting to plan our novels for November.
Or, if you’re me, you’ve just jumped into an editing frenzy.
(I seem to remember doing this last year as well. Good job, Beth.)
With the leaves starting to fall, I think it’s time to have a discussion about NaNoWriMo that’s been a long time coming.
Last November, I won NaNoWriMo. It was my first time truly participating, and it was 30 days of late nights and strong coffee and writing with strangers who became friends.
It started out with me loving the fact that I was finally getting this new idea out of my head and onto paper. But then it turned into me abandoning all concept of “plot” in favor of meeting a wordcount goal each day.
The end result was a very quickly-written, but not very cohesive novel.
It took me only 30 days to write 50,000 words.
My previous novel had taken me 2 years to write 100,00 words. (The novel’s about 80,000 words, but the first quarter had to be re-written mostly from scratch.)
So, NaNo’s great, right?! You basically speed through the rough-draft process! Yay!
Well, yes. And no.
‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.’ -JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring
NaNo is great because it gets you writing every day. It connects you with other writers online and in your local area. It makes writing fun again in a new and exciting way. And at the end of the month, you will (hopefully) have 50,000 words of a manuscript done.
But here’s where NaNo fell short for me: At the end of November, I walked away from my NaNo novel.
I was terrified to even touch it because I knew it was an utter train wreck.
I am just now brave enough (or curious enough) to have read through that novel and see if it’s worth salvaging. I’m happy to report that it is, and that I’ve started the editing process.
But I think that for some of us, NaNoWriMo is too intense. We burn so bright that we burn ourselves out. We write something so fast that we lose sight of what we wanted it to be in the first place.
So while I am planning on signing up for NaNo2016, but I’m not going to beat myself up to meet a daily word-count goal. I’m going to try to follow a plot of some sort while writing. And I’m not going to sacrifice quality for quantity. My tentative plan is to do a “half-nano,” where I write 25,000 words in the month. They’ll be 25,000 words that follow and actual plot and make sense.
So, back to editing. I’m finally working on last November’s novel. For me, the first step in editing is reading through my novel and mapping out the plot points on index cards. This first picture is the plot of The Sound of Color, and it was done on my closet at home. The second one is for my 2015 NaNo novel, and it’s done on a wall of my dorm.
I love having the visual of what’s happening in the plot, and being able to see how one thing leads to the next. I can also move the cards around or put up other cards with notes on them like “ADD A SCENE HERE” or “Come back and fix this!”
It allows me to focus on fixing the Big Issues with my plot before touching the Little Issues of chapters and words.
Wherever you are, whatever your feelings are for NaNo, whether you’re editing or writing or working on query letters, or re-writing chapter 1 of your novel for the 18th time, just don’t quit. You’re an amazing human being and the world needs to hear what you have to say.
And I hope to see you all this November.