Uh oh...I'm about to express an opinion.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel starting 1st November and finishing by 30th November.

50,000 words divided by 30 days = 1,666 words a day, and that's just for the first draft! I don't know how it works in your world, but in mine, the ms doesn't even begin to look like a readable book until revision number 7 or so. Is anyone up for 10,000 words a day? No, I thought not.

The best you could hope for from NaNoWriMo is a rough first draft. Even the NaNoWriMo web site agrees quality prose is not the objective. The objective is sheer volume.

I just don't get this. Doesn't the world already have enough unfinished first drafts?

A number of people whose opinion I respect a great deal, a number of serious publishing professionals even, who know more about writing than I ever will, think NaNoWriMo is a great idea. Obviously they're right and and I'm wrong, but I still don't get it.

The logic goes that people who otherwise don't have the time or the self-motivation to write a book will do it in November, because NaNoWriMo delivers seering embarrassment to anyone who misses their publicly avowed target.

Alright, I get that.

But what happens on 1st December? Does the writing stop dead because the whipping stopped? Does the urgent need to buy Christmas presents make the writer put the ms away for just a few days?

You bet it does.

Worst of all, my guess is an awful lot of those unfinished drafts are not going to be recoverable with revision even if someone takes the time, because the plotting has been rushed and bad habits have probably been reinforced.

I'm going to delve into self-help guidance...something for which I am entirely unsuited. Here is Gary's Guide To Finishing The Damned Book, and you don't need NaNoWriMo to do it; this system works every month of the year.

Step 1: Write a thousand words a day. Every day. Without fail. No excuses.

You are not permitted to go to bed until you do. This probably means you're going to be up very late, but that's your problem for not being efficient. You can write any rubbish you like to make your wordcount, but eventually you're going to get sick of writing The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over The Lazy Dog and write something useful instead.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to hit your daily target.

Step 2: Repeat Step 1 until you've finished the draft.

If you want to stop and change bits on the way that's fine. See step 3 for the rules for revision.

Step 3: Same target applies for revision. A thousand words a day.

You think this is too easy a target? You poor fool! A thousand words of revision takes longer than writing them fresh. At least, it does if you're me. Note that revising a thousand words is not the same as reading them.

The good news is, as revisions iterate, they go faster because scenes stabilize and are locked in.

Step 4: Repeat Step 3 until you are certifiably insane and/or sell the book.

That's it! This is the system I use, and it has caused me to finish three novels. One rotten, one with some good bits, and one that's actually quite good. I should be writing number four instead of doing this blog, but that merely means I'll be up until later to make my target.


Travis Erwin said...

I prefer to establish my own artificial and unobtainable deadlines.

Gary Corby said...

I've lost track of the number of times it's been 1am, I've only written 200 words for the day, and the only thing keeping me awake is the loud rock music through the headphones. At which point 1,000 words sounds very artificial and highly unobtainable to me.

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Merry Monteleone said...

I think Travis said it best...

There are publishing professionals that groan at the thought of Nano, though... they're the ones who'll be getting a slew of nano queries in December and January :-)