December 7, 2015


NaNoWriMo is over, and I lost spectacularly, completing only 20,119 words out of 50,000 (but then again, I only wrote from November 8th through the 22nd ). So, having done better on this  NaNo than I ever have before, I thought I'd share some thoughts with you.

TheOfficial NaNo site has some good features for keeping track of one's writing and connecting with other authors. The “Stats” feature charts a writer's total progress, calculates average words per day, and tells how many words per day a writer will need to finish by the deadline—it was fun to see my progress, as little as it was. The forums allow writers to ask and give advice and discuss their work. Another nice feature is messaging, which allowed me to chat with some of my old IRL writing friends who have moved away.

In terms of the actual NaNo-ing itself (I'd hardly call it novelling), I indeed accomplished what I set out to do, which was write whatever stories I felt like and get the juices flowing. I managed to write almost all of “Tale of a White Rabbit” in a single day, and I got some scenes down for six other projects. Not all of those other projects were very easy to write or very interesting, which is good to know, as I can now focus my efforts on the better stories.

That being the case, I'm not sure I would do  NaNo again, for several reasons, the first being that it's in November, which is just not conducive to spewing out a novel. Writing 50,000 words in “30 days” is a spurious notion, given that Thanksgiving, plus its weekend, should be spent with family, not locked away in your room writing (which is how I like to write). Thus, 27 or so days is more accurate, and I still say summer better fosters the writing spirit. Summer is full of green, growing things that make me want to write.

Secondly, and of far more importance, is the fact that  NaNo is just not my writing process. I don't normally keep track of my words, preferring to just write scene by scene until I'm done with a chapter. Worse still is the notion that one should just write words and not edit until the entire first draft is finished. I can't do such a thing (or not do such a thing?); I can't leave awful, awful writing sitting around, taking up space and leading to plot holes. I may leave in a bunch of nonsense that has not yet proved it's worth to the story, but it's going to be well written, entertaining nonsense, darn it! Bear in mind, this is all coming from someone who has literally re-written half of her third book four times (that's right, all of the Styx Series is done, so if I die in a fiery explosion, you'll all still get to finish the story). I love editing when all the pieces are in place, but I would never get them in place unless I got rid of the gross, badly fitting ones as I went.

Long story short,  NaNo's devil-may-care process of writing may work for some people and not others; it may even work for some novels and not others. It just doesn't work for me. One thing it really doesn't allow for is thinking. Some people plan out their novels in October, which is a good idea, but what happens when you run out of ideas mid-November, or come up against a gaping plot hole, or think of something wildly brilliant that changes everything, but needs more planning before you can implement it? I'd estimate that about half of writing isn't writing at all; it’s imagining. Once you've thought a scene through, or talked about it with someone, or let it percolate in your mind, it's exceedingly easier to actually write it down in words. But with NaNo, there's no time for this percolation, so many people feel a sort of burn out and “lose”, when what they ought to do is take a break and just think.

Speaking of which, I did get a lot of thinking done, and also a lot of writing, though I can't really attribute this to NaNo, as (A) a lot of it neither counted toward my word count nor was in any way a novel and (B) had its genesis in non- NaNo-esque activities. I came up with some ideas/drafts for a series of world building blogposts about Miscast Spells, and in my search for my notes on the magic system the humans use, I discovered a long lost (and quite hilarious) exposition scene that I inexplicably deleted from the current manuscript (but will somehow bring back, maybe as a bonus blog post). I also read a bunch of poems that my friend wrote, which inspired me to write several new poems myself. While hanging out with my mom and sister over Thanksgiving break, I talked through an idea for a new story involving fairy-tales and came up with some really cute ideas. And in the time-honored tradition of many writers (I assume), I fixed a slight (but glaring) plot hole while thinking in the shower.

I didn't win NaNo, nor did I really get much of a start on any new novels. I did, on the other hand, get some new ideas and let some old ideas percolate. And I even got a little bit of writing done, here and there, off and on. It was a month well spent.

1 comment:

  1. All great ideas were conceived of in the shower, or the contemporary equivalent. The 200-year stagnation between the Black Plague and Copernicus can be attributed to mindless classicist fetishism—but it could just as well be due to the decline of regular bathing in the aftermath of the Plague.