The Day I Slapped NaNoWriMo And Called It “Sarah”
So at 7:41 pm tonight, I beat National Novel Writing Month in the way that mattered to me; I completed Act II of my novel in progress. 57,286 words committed to paper; actually, it’s 61,396 words if you count the deleted scenes I always shove to the end of the manuscript, but still.
I’m proud and tired.
There are those who thought I was against National Novel Writing Month, which I’m not. I’m for anything that gets people writing. I think NaNo is often a great encouragement. I think it’s equally often a discouragement after a week or so in, as potentially-competent-but-slow writers see that they’re not going to be able to churn out the requisite word count and give up on what might otherwise be promising novels. Yes, it’s good at getting asses in chairs, but for every person I see going, “ZOMG I FINISHED!” I know two people who, come November 10th, have abandoned their work because the goal line is too far away.
Sadly, given the way many so-called writers bash NaNo, a lot of folks have a bunker mentality where “It’s nice to get people started, but the focus on production often intimidates people out of finishing” reads to them as “HE HATES THE NANO.” I do not. I think it’s like every writing exercise – useful for some, deadly for others. The trick as a writer is to know what suits you.
…that’s neither here nor there. I’m tired. The real news is that I wrote at a hectic pace, not letting my inner critic stifle me, and got through Act II. I missed a lot of dates so I could do this, working ten-hour days and then writing for three more to ensure I stayed on topic. I think that I’m going to probably continue this crazy pace through December, just to polish off Act III. But it’s been a grueling process, and I feel exhausted. I have no idea how Cassie Alexander does this three times a year.
Then comes the rewriting. There’s a lot to fix. It took me 50,000 words to figure out who my lead character was. There are worldbuilding problems – hey, how common is magic? – that literally switch 20,000 words in. I’ll need to slip back into scenes and quietly place Chekov’s guns on the mantle. And the prose is so flabby, I’ll probably cut 20% out of it before I’m done (that’s a lot of blubber to flense) and replace a metric fuckton of cliches with writing that’s actually fresh and new.
That’s all good, though. It’s been an experience, writing at this clip; I’m usually a very sedate writer, lucky to hit 800 words a day. Doubling that was an effort in letting go, and I honestly don’t know if this is any good or not. I’ll take the weekend off, pondering what happens in Act III, and then start to furiously scribble to get to, say, 90,000 words by the time I’m done. When it’s done, we’ll see whether I write better at a furious gallop.
It may be a dribbling turd of a thing, or trapped lightning. No way of knowing until the end.
But for now, I did it. Almost 60,000 words, almost 2,000 words a day.
I’m going to have a drink, and maybe cry a little.
(And no, I don’t know why I’m calling NaNoWriMo “Sarah.” Could be “Steven,” I guess. I’m punchy, allow an old tired man some oddness.)