Friday, November 12, 2010

16,000 words and growing

National Novel Writing Month proceeds. Nano has gotten very interesting for me. They don't really talk about how nano changes for a writer each year they participate. The pep talks, etc. all still mostly speak to beginners, or first time nano'ers. They don't talk about how easy nano gets after you have a few under your belt. Or maybe it doesn't for other people? Maybe it's just as hard for them on their tenth as it was on their first?

Not for me. Maybe because I came to Nano originally as a more experienced writer, but once I learned that writing 1,666 words a day can not only be done, but done pretty easily, that particular challenge was gone. I've successfully completed six nano's before this. Achieving word count is not really an issue. The last couple times, and this year in particular, I've become pretty lackadaisical about nano. I don't stress and stay up until eleven or twelve at night just because I need another few hundred words that day. I don't get that thrill or that excitement or that anxiety anymore, not about the month itself. About the story I'm writing, yeah, but that's a different thing entirely.

Nowadays, nano is about maintaining discipline. More than that, it's about understanding story and storytelling. About what makes a good story, what each scene needs to do in the small individual picture and in the big picture. I am not fond of writing crap. I don't have time in my life to spend November writing crap that I'll have to spend the next year re-writing into something decent. That's just a load of road apples. If I'm not writing usable material right here, right now during nano, that is on track for my goals for my novel, then there's no point in participating at all.

And so I throw out a lot of words during nano, and I tend to write pretty sparse when I write this fast anyway. I delete extra adjectives and phrases I know I won't keep in a later draft as I go. I had a scene started the other night that I was ready to end, when I realized nothing had changed in the scene. It was informational only, and the character was in the same spot at the end as at the beginning. So I deleted about four hundred words, re-thought it to make it an actual functioning scene, and re-wrote.

And that's how this writer's seventh nano session goes. It's no longer about the word count, it's about getting the story as close to right the first time through. That's the challenge now, of staying on track while moving at the speed Nano requires. And all that Nano talk about just keep writing, allow yourself the freedom to suck... that is dead-on right to encourage and create successful first time nano'ers, but it could not be more irrelevant or annoying when you're down the line. I keep waiting for the "So, you've done this before, eh? Well, now, let me tell you what your next nano challenge is going to be and how to beat it." But no one writes those pep talks.

Maybe I should.



  1. Anonymous9:49 AM

    You know I haven't even read any of the pep talks this time around? Like you say, every year they say more or less the same, and that's "don't worry if what you write is bad, just write and amend it later". I have something of an internal editor anyway, and it doesn't get switched off on Nov 1 just because I have a deadline to hit. It occasionally makes do, but more often than not it goes "no, you can do better than that. Re-write it. Now."

    I've been meaning to write a proper nano post this time around, something that isn't just about how many words I've churned out but covers my writing process as well. Reading this makes me realise two things: I really need to write it, and it won't be so far removed from this one... :-P

  2. I think I just get irritated sometimes that there does not appear to be a spot for seasoned nano'ers, where craft is important too, not just the wild free-for-all ride that is nano when you start out. I loved those first nanos, they were unlike anything I'd ever done, and they taught me a ton. But I'm in a different place now, and I wish there was a different set of Nano encouragement letters you could subscribe to. Procrastination is as big a part of nano as the writing, but I'd like to procrastinate with something that is more nano-appropriate. I tried to read the pep talk emails this go-around, but I just end up rolling my eyes and deleting them halfway through.

    Looking forward to your post on writing!

  3. Hah! I've got half a dozen peptalks sitting in my Nano box unread because... I don't need them, I guess. I do get some total crap written -- there's one day I knew I'd toss most of what I wrote that day, but because this novel was so unpercolated and I'm flying without a map much more than usual, I'm okay with spending a day pursuing avenues I then realize are somewhat irrelevant. Especially since I have so little time to write most days.

    So it's not just you.