November is drawing to a close and – for many of us – it was another year of chasing the NaNoWriMo word count. For those of you that don’t know, the National Novel Writing Month is a creative writing challenge where authors around the globe dare themselves and their writing buddies to write 50,000 words during the month of November.
I took up this challenge – just as I had done in years before. While most start with a twinkle in their eye and a shiny idea, I decided to enter the 2017 arena to finish my current manuscript (more on that later). Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I cheated – I’d just be cheating myself, honestly. This is what I did:
I started this year’s WriMo on the 5th of November with a fourth-draft-manuscript numbering 104,469 words – some of this was notes and outdated slivers of writing that sank to the bottom of the document. As this is a re-write of my novel, there were large sections that I edited, re-wrote, or wrote from scratch. There was no funny business with copy/pasting sections.
At the end of each day I would subtract the word count from the original number. The result was entered into the WriMo word tracker and – ta-da! As simple as that.
The Day Job
Unfortunately, I could not simply write all day, every day. As much as I would love to.
I work as an editor by day and during this time I had a dense body of work to edit. Balancing this with writing proved to be something of a challenge. Not that there wasn’t time for writing, it was just a matter of freeing myself from the miasma of meandering sentences and broken tenses that gave me trouble. Sounds like a bad excuse – perhaps it is.
Unlike previous forays into this manuscript, Draft 4 has a clearly marked path. I did not have to explore tangents or excavate the thought-processes of side characters. I knew where I was going and what previous iterations were missing.
This, in fact, did not make it as easy as I thought. The fact that I knew the characters well enough created unanticipated facets for the story. I had to work them in – let them make sense. It’s working – trust me – the book has much more than a heartbeat, it just can be daunting sometimes.
Luckily for my characters and I, I have a devoted beta-reader to to help us through the slog. I send her a chapter at a time – she keeps me honest.
The Word Count
Now – a few days away from the finish line – I am far from finished. I have barely managed to reach the half-way mark. But – you know what? – that’s perfectly okay. In the last few weeks I have written more than I have in a while and my manuscript is taking shape! Wrinkles have been ironed out, characters have proper backstories and motivations, the world seems to be functioning like a world, and I almost have half of it polished and ready!
While I won’t win NaNoWriMo this year, I do not regret the fact that I took part. Despite the work, despite life getting in the way, I stayed true to my endeavour. The manuscript is far beyond a first draft – actually it is crawling ever closer to becoming a final one. Watch this space!
On another note: this challenge has a way of forcing you to write more. While showing rather than telling often leads to writing more, you might be tempted to over-explain or over-write. It is important to resist this temptation as it will bog down your prose. It is a great way to ‘explore’ a first draft (don’t get me wrong), but if you are reworking a manuscript, it may lead to baggage. You don’t want your novel to be burdened with several pages that add nothing to your novel. More on this later.
What About You?
Did you take part in NaNo this year? Did you take part before, but you decided not to this time? Tell me why. Did you also work on an advanced draft of your novel?
Share your experiences below. This is a chance to connect!