Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 23 November 2013

NaNoWriMo: The Way Forward


By Jennifer Young

Mary blogged last week on the subject of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (hope it’s going well, Mary!) and I make no apologies for doing the same thing. I don’t imagine I’m the only person for whom the whole get-on-with-it ethos of 50,000 words in a month has taken on a life of its own.

I went at my novel knowing that I couldn't possibly manage 1,667 words each and every day and that my only hope was to get it done as soon as possible, preferably without neglecting everyone around me too much. And I’m pleased to say that I did – and that I even managed to feed and clothe my family and discharge my paid writing commitments at the same time, though perhaps some of the other household chores got a little neglected.

And once I’d typed those magic words The End and downed a celebratory glass of red, what next? Revision. Redrafting. Editing. Because when I read back over the first draft I was struck by the inevitable horrors. You know the sort. There’s the vegan tucking in to an omelette; the woman who starts the book without a husband and yet by the end has been married for twenty years to a man we never see; the character who (if you pay attention to the timescale) manages to be in two places at the same time. Worst of all, one of the major characters is so completely underdeveloped I can barely see him in my own mind – so heaven help my readers.

Hero just a cardboard cut-out? Oh dear!
Photo: Gage Skidmore (from Wikimedia Commons)
None of this would have happened if I wasn't driven by NaNo. I would have planned my timescale more carefully. I’d have plotted my characters in more detail. And I’d probably never have got beyond 30,000 words before grinding to a halt and moaning about how hard it is to write a novel. Of course this is the beauty of the whole project – as long as you can abandon the mind-set that drives you to get it right first time it helps you over the walls of must-go-back-and-fix or don’t-know-what-comes-next.

As it happens, I like editing. I like redrafting. It’s easier to breathe life into a cardboard cut-out when I know what situations he’s in. It’s easier, too, to see the flaws in the novel when it’s actually written than when it’s in the planning stage, though planning remains essential (and indeed, I wrote to a plan).

I have written a novel in a month. It’s 75,000 words long. It’s pretty terrible, if I’m honest – but at least I know why. And I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to picking up the red pen.

12 comments:

  1. Well Jennifer I can only say well done to get so many words written in so short a time and I hope you enjoy the satisfaction of working it into the perfect novel.

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    1. I think I will, Gwen - overall I really enjoyed the experience!

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  2. I'm feeling exhausted! What an achievement! Wish I could emulate it, but even with a Nano kick up my backside, I fear it would be impossible. Don't be too hard on yourself, Jennifer. But yes, I had spotted the omelette flaw!

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    1. There are many more horrors than just that, Jenny, as I'm sure you'll have seen. It's really obvious where I reached the point where I stopped thinking about what I was actually writing!

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  3. Well done, Jennifer. I shall be more than happy if I make the 50,000 words. I'm still on target but I have so many events and otehr things coming over the next week I might struggle. Enjoy the editing.

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    1. I'm sure you'll do it, Mary. And I'm looking forward to reading your NaNo words. I do love think that something that makes us write - even something we wouldn't normally try - has to be a good thing.

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  4. Gosh, Jennifer.. and I thought I'd done well. Brilliant!

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    1. Thanks Myra. And I'm looking forwards to the next Bute mystery....

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  5. Congrats, Jennifer. I'm so impressed! An inspiration.

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  6. I think it's a brilliant motivation for getting the words down and I'm amazed at your total, Jennifer! It worked for me last year but I've had to give up this year with other things getting in the way. But I do agree about the editing stage and that's the beauty of having the words to change.

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  7. That is so impressive, Jennifer. You can really lay claim to one and a half Nanos with that total!

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