Yesterday was the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is the one month a year where loads of wannabe word slingers try to crap out 50K words toward a novel draft. For some real pros and for people who know participants, it can be pretty insufferable. Some of us NaNo writers spend a lot more time talking about writing than actually writing, for example, which is to say nothing of all the poor quality writing that doubtless results from the event. I addressed some of the hate directed at the event at the beginning of 2015 here, and I maintain that whatever bad it brings is far outweighed by the good.
My NaNoWriMo Mantras
Since participating last year, I’ve thought about the event in terms of a handful of, I dunno, I guess you might call them mantras or aphorisms. These are not wholly original ideas, but they are ways of approaching NaNoWriMo that help me stay clear on why I do it and get the most out of it. Here they are.
It is possible to write well while writing fast.
I believe this wholeheartedly. There exists an impression amongst some people, writers included, that writing cannot be any good unless it was slaved over for ages. Painstaking review of your writing will generally lead to a better product, but writers all have their own pace and many can do excellent work very quickly.
Progress is more important than perfection.
This is something of an extension of the first. NaNoWriMo is about getting a first draft, not a final product. There is a time for extensive revision and searching for just the right way to say something. That time is not now. It’s more important to keep making your way through the story than it is to get it just right.
The story is more important than the event.
Participating in NaNo is fun. It gives me concrete goals. It helps me focus. None of that is a substitute for writing a good story. I’d rather fall short of the 50K goal but make progress toward a quality product than hit 50K with a garbage story. If this seems like a contradiction of the first two, you’re not entirely wrong. But here’s the difference. The first two are about working quickly and not letting my inner editor become an obstacle. This one is a reminder that, ultimately, no one cares if this story was written within the strictures of NaNoWriMo. Yes, I can worry about perfecting the prose later, but I don’t want to go off the rails with the story itself just to service the arbitrary goal of 50K words in a month.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m aiming for a really ambitious November, including participating in NaNo for the second time. This is kind of dumb considering it’s a month with a major holiday, but because of the nature of my work holidays (and weekends) have a bit less meaning than they did when I was an office worker. Still, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m trying to squeeze in a few thousand words on Thanksgiving and ignoring friends and family in the process. I want to get ahead of the game as much as possible. I’m trying to crush the default word count goal of 1,667 per day, and I’m armed with an outline I feel pretty good about to help make that happen.
For day one, that meant 3,588 words, which is a good start. They’re not all gold. They won’t all make the final cut. That’s fine. But the story is heading in the right direction, and that’s the important part. Time to get back at it.