It’s November 1. Time to write.
It’s November 1. Time to write.
Admittedly, that title got away from me.
I am currently debating whether or not I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in 2016. At this point, I have less than a week to decide. I have an idea for a story, some brief character concepts, a general sense of what I would write…
…Here comes the but(t)…
Wait, that doesn’t look right. Anyway. I haven’t finished editing my book from last year. There. I tried to poorly diffuse my shame with a butt and it still didn’t work. And it kills me, guys, because editing is a slog. It’s boring. I hate editing.
I do not know what to do.
I brought this up to a fellow NaNo participant, and I asked, “Do you think I should do it and then have two unfinished manuscripts?”
Without even pausing, she said, “Two. Absolutely.”
I want to agree, but at the same time, I’ve tried to move away from unfinished projects. I always end up with accumulating a stack of ‘to do’s instead of feeling accomplished. And, sure, in many cases I come back and finish, but it doesn’t feel quite as gratifying as having something done and then getting to share it openly.
Now, with that in mind, however, most of the things I do finish are short pieces: short stories, flash fiction, poetry, fanfiction, that sort of thing.
So I pose this to you, dear reader: which is better? One finished manuscript or two unfinished manuscripts?
Now excuse me. I’m going to go wallow in artistic angst (which mostly consists of watching youtube videos).
So this weekend I did something that I never thought I would do.
I printed the entire draft of my novel.
Well, I didn’t print it. I had it printed at Fedex. I got it 3-hole-punched and then I purchased a binder for it to live in. I also double-spaced the draft so I had room for notes and line-editing.
And y’all. Y’all.
I will never not print my first draft of anything ever again.
It’s so satisfying. And not because of any sort of aesthetic, like the feel of the paper or the scratch of the pen, although those things are very nice. No, it’s because I’m not seeing it the way I see every single other part of my day: on the other side of a screen. I don’t find myself going cross-eyed at walls of text. I’m not terrified of cutting and pasting chapters because I think that at that moment my computer is going to crash or Internet demons will steal my words away into an oblivion of deletion.
If I want to move a chapter, I literally pick it up and rearrange it.
If I like a passage, I can draw a giant smiley face.
If I hate something, I can punch it without replacing my monitor.
Try it. Print out a short story or a poem or a blog post. Look at it with a pen in your hand. Really read it. Write on it. Cross shit out. Underline words. Doodle in the margins.
It’s a completely different experience.
So this week I started editing my NaNoWriMo novel.
Y’all. It is a struggle. Ask me to write a billion words and, sure, it’ll take me a while, but I can do it. Like a champ, in fact. Ask me to then edit those billion words, and you will see a girl cry her damn eyes out.
Because it’s not at that point yet where I could conceivably hand it over to someone to work on for me. There are probably a solid 2-3 beginnings. Some people have read segments of it, sure, but if I tried to toss it into someone’s lap, they’d probably get about 10 pages in and go, “Wtf is this?” Thus, I am here alone, wading through my own blah blah blah, trying to figure out what’s there, how it got there and what is staying and what is going.
Also, with what I wrote in November and the prior draft, it’s over 90K words.
Holy guacamole, y’all.
So here are a few things that are working so far, and how I am doing it. I am praying that my suffering will at least do some good for the world if I talk about it. Because I HATE IT.
Do you use any tactics when editing a big piece of fiction? How do you even start? I am very curious, because I keep looking up like, “Am I doing this right?!”
It’s been three days since NaNoWriMo ended, and it all feels very weird. There’s this huge gap in my day-to-day schedule, like going from taking classes to summer vacation. When I’m not at my day job, I feel aimless. I’ve started keeping lists just so I don’t feel like I’m not doing anything at all.
NaNoWriMo was really, really hard. I did the bare minimum, writing almost every day with the exception of a day or two in the first week as well as Thanksgiving. I was never scrambling to catch up on more than a few thousand words, which I am obscenely grateful for. High five, November Katie.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from NaNo 2015:
Phew. Now what, world?
Okay, so…I can’t even believe I’m heading into the last week of this crazy journey. I have less than 15K words left, you all. 15K. And I’m all, “Oh god, am I actually going to get to the end of this?! Or am I going to have to go all Imperial Affliction and end this in the middle of a sentence BUT IF SO I HAVE TO GIVE SOMEONE CANCER.”
If you understand all that, you are my kind of people.
So let’s see…pointers from this week:
I am grateful for every one of you. Have a great week, and I’ll see you when all the crying is done.
Geez louise, you guys.
I won’t lie, y’all. NaNoWriMo is a mud run for writers. It’s trying to take everything you’ve learned over the span of your entire lifetime as a writer and trying to make it all apply in this mad dash of 50K words.
The first week has been good. I’ve fallen behind a little this weekend, but I’m not too worried, truth be told. I’m not at that point where I am desperately counting words, like they are vital nutrient-rich calories while I am Bear-Grylls-ing my way through alien terrain.
There are a few things that have kept me going: Chuck Wendig and his book 30 Days in the Word Mines. Chocolate. Pandora. Field trips to places I hadn’t been before. Visual art.
I’ve also learned a few lessons: turn off word count when you’re trying to get productive. Don’t try and watch anything while you’re writing. Don’t stop believing. Hold onto that feeling.
It may be a Journey lyric, but it applies.
As I type these words, it is 10:53PM on Halloween. I have eaten my body weight in candy and assorted snacks. I have showered, I have drunk water, I have adjusted one of the few clocks in the house that will not magically flip back an hour on its own (I had this conversation with a friend tonight, how the phenomenon of “changing your clocks” just doesn’t apply to most people anymore, since cell phones and computers have now taken over the world. Who actually has to set clocks anymore?)
I am both ready and not ready for this.
I am so excited and so scared. A lot of people don’t get it, because once I answer the question, “Do you win a prize?” with a firm no, people go all funny-eyed. Even better are the ones that go, “Wait, you write?” And then I go listen to Nine Inch Nails and sob into a pillow for an hour.
There are a few things I have ready that I think are going to prove very helpful this month.
How about you? How are you getting ready for this? What are the tools in your utility belt? Tell me about them!
A friend told me today that he is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo. He asked if I had any advice. I would like to share this advice with you too, dear reader, dear writer.
Don’t do it for any reason other than to write and have fun doing it. Don’t do it for anyone else or because you feel like you ‘have’ to. It has to be the marriage of challenge and joy.
Prepare, but don’t prepare too much. The devil is in the details, and analysis paralysis will be your enemy. Think over the next week the type of book you want to write, the type of characters you want to give birth to. If you can create a book jacket summary of the overall arc, cool. If not, also cool.
Small chunks of writing will work better than marathon writing. Squeeze it into your schedule. If you don’t already love to write for five hours, you aren’t going to start now.
Don’t give up. Don’t get to the 20th and go, “I only have x words, there’s no way I’m going to get to 50k, I’m done.” Fight to the end. See what happens. Miracles have happened in mere hours.
Just by wanting to do it, you are ahead of the millions of people who say “someday I’ll…” Celebrate that, but just not too much.
If you want to share your creature as it awakens, do it. But tell people to hand over the roses and leave the thorns until 12/1. Because you will want to edit. Every writer does. You will hear yourself say, “Oh wait, this should be this” or “that should have not happened.” Leave the casualties and save yourself.
You can do it. I believe in you.