Do you do the #NaNoWriMo? For the uninitiated, that’s a Pentagon-style acronym for National Novel Writing Month, a sort of online writing challlenge-slash-support-group for ambitious authors who want to slam out their first (or next) novel.
Personally, I never have, although I did an analogous exercise for stage plays a few years back (Script Frenzy). It was inspiring and illuminating, and I admire people who do it.
But it’s not for me. I just don’t have the “blurt it out” writing style that the event calls for. In Larry Brooks’ terminology, I’m a “plotter” rather than a “pantser.” I like to plan out my scenes, characters, and plot lines in pretty significant detail before diving in too deep to the writing. It’s possible to do that as part of one’s #NaNoWriMo process, but it takes a lot more planning and timing than I can usually muster.
One issue I’ve seen with #NaNoWriMo-generated novels is that the authors too often come away thinking that they’ve “finished” their book once they’ve hit their 50,000 word mark. That’s almost never actually true. It is true that they’ve completed a first draft, but more often than not, those first drafts really should be viewed as studies or sketches of their novel rather than as a completed draft.
That’s because too many of these tomes come off (unsurprisingly) as rushed jumbles of scenes rather than as a well-constructed story. They lack setup, continuity, heightening, and payoff. I say unsurprisingly because, well, most of them ARE rushed. Slamming that many words onto your laptop in a 30-day period, particularly when holidays are starting to take over what would have been one’s “free” (writing) time, is a daunting challenge that often results in an end-of-month writing marathon, an exercise in spewing words rather than constructing careful prose and plot.
But that’s okay. That’s all fixable. That, so “they” say, is what editors are for. It’s also what the other eleven months of the year are for (besides preparing an outline for your next Nano). In fact, I think we need to create a new writing challenge: #NaNoReMar, for “National Novel Revision Marathon.” Because that’s what the later drafts represent: the long, careful slog that begins to transform your first drafts into polished, publishable work. That’s rewriting. And, as the saying goes, writing IS rewriting.
Not everyone’s up for doing their own rewriting, or at least, not all of it. That, in fact, is why I am an editor: to help writers shape their early drafts into the meaningful, delightful stories they envisioned at the start of the process.
I hope, if you’re a Nano-er, that you complete your 50,000 word quest by November 30. And I hope that, soon after you’ve completed your much-needed post-Nano break, you have something worth revising into publishable form. And I hope that when you do, you give me a call or send me an email so I can help you do that.
Just don’t publish it until you go through #NaNoReMar.