What I learned from NaNoWriMo 2012
I made it! I finished my NaNoWriMo novel for this year and I did it before the deadline. It’s ugly…it’s messy and it certainly isn’t fit for prime time. But at least this year I was able to overcome my natural inclination to edit as I go, put my head down and just write. I dumped it all onto paper (ok, ok, the screen….ram…whatever) and produced a 50,000+ first draft. Note the emphasis on first draft. This is going to require a lot of editing, rearranging and fine tuning, but at least the basic story line is there.
I had to forego many of my usual practices to meet the deadline. Not surprisingly, I now realize these are the practices that have made me come up short before. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to overcome them. I should explain that I am an ex-English teacher (I taught fourth grade English for two years as an intern) and my minor is in literature. When I see misspelled words, typos and missed punctuation, my mind gets derailed and forward progress comes to a screeching halt. That was only one item from the long list of things I struggled with this year. For the sake of others fighting the good fight, I thought I might list the good habits I had to turn my back on in the never ending struggle to get things done.
- Forget about the spelling, typos and bad punctuation. Just keep writing. Do a brain dump and worry about cleaning up the other stuff later. That is the purview of the beta-reader and proofreader.
- Forget about telling the story in order. NaNoWriMo is about the word count. Write the scenes that you know, don’t worry about the final order. There is nothing that says you must start with scene one. Many writers start with the last scene. If you have a clear idea of a scene from the first chapter and a scene from the last chapter, write them in that order, then you can worry about the story that will connect them. If you have an outline, you can fit the fragments into the outline. If you don’t have an outline, what you get down may help you arrive at one. If you start thinking that you can’t write scene three until you have developed scene two, you will never get anything written. Write the story that you know, when you know it. You are going to take care of the arrangement as part of your editing process.
- Can’t come up with the name of a town, person, thing…whatever? You will but don’t leave your story to figure it out. I keep a notepad on my desk by my computer. When I come to a spot where I realize I need a name for a person or place, I type in a placeholder. Then I make a note on the pad of the placeholder and what it represents. I come back later and do my look-ups and my search and replace. For example, when I come to my first spot in my story where I realize I need a proper name, I will type in the placeholder [AAA]. On my notepad I write “[AAA] ~ a small town on a desert planet where my character gets into his first fight.” Later I will figure out a name for the town and do a search and replace on “[AAA]“. My second item will be [BBB], etc.
- Give yourself permission to write garbage. Even if, half way through a scene or chapter, you think ‘this doesn’t make any sense’, keep going. Just know that you are going to re-write, add, delete and otherwise ‘doctor’ you manuscript later.
- Don’t worry about too much telling, not enough showing. This is a rough draft. A veeerrry rough draft. Remember that you are going to do a lot of work on it. Keep telling yourself, it is about the word count.
- Don’t worry about research. You can do research up front but inevitably you will run into something that will need more research. You will be writing along and your hero (or heroine) will do something and you will think *can he/she do that?* or you will think *why*. Don’t stop to research it. Stick in a place holder (I use , etc for these) and write it down on your pad. “ Is this feasible in weightlessness?” Later you can research and revise if needed.
Hopefully, I can get the editing and polishing done and have it ready to go by the first of the year, but I have a non-fiction I am trying to get ready for sale at the same time, so I’m going to say “Once a Warrior” should be ready by February 1st. Certainly it is the most important to me but I also need to put some money in the bank hence the non-fiction piece.