I know that it’s a day late at this point, but NaNoWriMo is officially over, so I thought I would do a post Novel-Writing post.
I love NaNo. I’ve done it five times now, counting this year, and have won all five times. And I learn something near each time, too.
The first time, I learned that I can, in fact, finish a project. This was important to me, and I know many other authors out there that have trouble finishing projects, so I think it’s a worthwhile point to make. Finishing that novel was a huge success, and the fact that it was also a GOOD novel was even better. I spent the last few years editing and polishing it, true, but that’s not the point here. It could have been utter crap that I never touched again. The fact was, I finished it, and that was damn good.
The next time I won, I did it with 60,000 words, and a half-finished novel. That year taught me that, when I put my mind to it, I can find the time to write. A few hundred words in the morning before anyone else is up, and the same at the end of the day. My 15 minutes breaks at work to get in a few hundred words more. I found that getting in 2,000 words a day was pretty damn easy. Sadly, this novel has not been finished. I did like it, though, and I believe that one day I shall revisit it, and finish it off.
The third year, I tried something different. I outlined a novel as much as I was able to. I learned during this run that while outlining helps me to a certain degree, by giving me a guideline when I get lost in the narrative, I need to be careful to not over outline a novel. I am what many call a “seat of the pants” writer, meaning I do best when I just sit down and write. I prefer the term “discovery writer,” myself, but it means the same thing. I have learned, however, that pure discovery writing doesn’t always work, and some outlining helps keep the discovery writing flowing. This story, for those interested, turned out to be utter crap, and I have simply tossed it aside and moved on. Sometimes, you win in word count, but not in story. Another lesson learned that year.
As a side note, that same year, I had also done Script Frenzy, for the first and last time. I did it because I had always wondered if I could write a TV show script. I learned that I could not. At least, not at my current level of skill. Script writing is much harder for me that straight prose. It requires a certain kind of thought processes that I would have to train myself to do, and so I’ve put that desire aside for now. But, I can at least say I gave it a try, and I’m happy about that.
My fourth win was part of another project I was doing at the time. I took a challenge from Ray Bradbury, which was to write one short story a week for a full year, and I blogged my stories. (You can read them all here, http://1storyaweek.blogspot.com). So, last year I combined NaNo and 1 Story a Week by writing a novel that was a collection of short stories. I learned that writing short stories was much different than a novel, and making the individual stories complete stories in and of themselves while still telling one big story was also pretty hard. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I can tell you that I learned a lot doing it, and that if I ever did it again, I would be better.
This year, I decided to write a story that I had been keeping in a drawer labeled “really good ideas that I don’t want to fuck up.” I’m sure many of you authors out there know this drawer. I had avoided writing this story out of a fear that I would do just that. The idea was a good one, and it deserved good prose to make it come to life. Well, I learned this year that, unless I actually write it, unless I am willing to risk writing something really shitty with that great idea, I will never write that idea at all. Taking a good idea and writing something bad, I learned, is better than not doing it at all. Also, it turned out that the story I am writing is pretty damn good, up to par with the idea, I believe. So much so that, even though I won NaNo, I am still writing this book. Because unlike my second win, I want to finish this novel.
And that’s my NaNo journey so far. I am looking forward to NaNo next year. I have no idea what I will write about, or what I will learn, but I’m sure that I will have a blast doing both.
So, until next year, I hope that those of you who did NaNo had fun, win or lose, and I hope you keep writing your novel, win or lose. Because in the end, the best thing about NaNo isn’t winning, it’s getting that novel started.
Oh, speaking of this year’s Novel, I am planning on posting the first chapter up here soon. Maybe tonight or tomorrow, so stay tuned.