Long time readers may remember my lamentations about National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).
I know what I said:
The “at this rate you’ll finish your novel on x date” ticker in NaNoWriMo is stressful for me. It causes undue stress…
That was a few years ago. It’s been long enough that I’ve been able to forget some of the stress.
This year I’ve succumbed to the madness. Here are my thoughts on why I’m attempting it this year:
1 – Drafting Approach
I read, during one of my last NaNoWriMo ventures, a pep talk where the author said they would just push through the first draft. If something needed research, they would bold it or put it in brackets or make it red – make it noticeable to be fixed in revision.
They said if there was a scene that was not flowing for them, they’d make a note about what the scene was to be (combat, for example), and then move on to the next part.
Over the past few years I’ve tried to embrace this approach more. I still write in order, but if my question can’t be answered very quickly, I now make a bolded note to research it later and push forward. My goal with a first draft is to tell the story, not perfection. “Fix it in post” is my new mantra.
2 – Writing Habits
It’s theorized that the goal of NaNoWriMo is not just to create more novels, but to also create better writing habits. That’s something that’s changed/improved for me over the years.
I used to have a very ritualized writing process and would write every evening for several hours. Often I did the bulk of my writing on weekends. It certainly wasn’t every day.
Now I write whenever I can get the chance. I write on my phone midday. I write on the laptop in the evening as time allows, and at night I write before I go to sleep.
3 – Community
I feel like in the past few years (especially the past few months I’ve made deeper connections within the Twitter #WritingCommunity.
I’m hoping this will make me feel more accountable and make better progress.
4 – NaNoRebel
One aspect of NaNoWriMo that has changed in the past couple years is that this is now more flexible than just 50k in 30 days.
On an unrelated note … industry standards vary on length for genre, so 50k may not be a complete novel depending on the project. This matters if you’re seeking traditional publishing, but not self-publishing. The flexibility of NaNo now makes it so that it better fits projects across genres.
This year I’m working on a project that I began last year. It’s actually a fourth draft page one rewrite. Part of why this is easier for me than in previous years (just a few days in so I’m supposing) is that it is a project where I already understand the characters, and have a very detailed outline (that I’m not sticking to).
There’s even a built in badge for NaNoWriMo now for atypical goals- for NaNoRebels.
I began working on this book last year. I had an epiphany one night and realized that instead of third person past tense with multiple points of view, I’ve changed it to first person present tense with a single point of view. Right now I’m about 60k words into the first part.
At the beginning of this year I put this draft on hold. I worked exclusively on revising a few older projects and on short stories. I recently picked this back up and have been working very hard on it.
My goal for November is to bring that draft up to 110k, and possibly rewrite the first chapter. So far, two days in I’ve managed a little over 4k words.
This brings me to preparation or … Preptober.
5 – Preptober
When I first attempted NaNoWriMo I came up with a story outline a few days before November without really understanding my characters. As I began to understand them better, I kinda left the outline behind. I’m a bit of a plotser- I can’t claim full pantser or plotter status.
Of late #Preptober has become a thing: preparing before all the writing begins is something I really recommend.
I want to point out that not all genres are the same: some are more difficult to write than others. Each genre has its own tropes, but they have different emphases. Science fiction and fantasy have hefty emphases on world-building that just aren’t a concern in mysteries or thrillers.
Historical fiction and hard science fiction, naturally need to be true to the facts. Soft science fiction and contemporary fiction have more artistic license.
Fantasy, though it has the biggest freedom for invention also has the biggest rope to hang oneself where suspension of belief is concerned.
Being familiar with the tropes of one’s genre helps not only to be creative but also to fulfill your reader’s expectations. In story telling, the idea of cognitive cohesion is very important: does a story meet the expectations of its genre? Does it keep in mind what’s been done before yet have a fresh twist?
My writing process has changed, along with some of my life circumstances. I’m hoping that I can finish this book this month so that I can begin revising another old draft.
Will you be participating in #FinishURBookFall or #NaNoWriMo19?