November is almost here. You know what that means. NANOWRIMO DESCENDS UPON US WITH THE FURY OF WORDS THAT MUST. LAND. ON. THE. PAGE.
National Novel Writing Month.
Most folks who have been considering participating in NanoWrimo have already decided, yay or nay? I can’t do it this year with six projects in various stages of draft. I’ve got things started that I am determined to finish and Nano requires a new first draft of a thing.
I have, however, participated in NanoWrimo in the past. For me, it was a lot of fun, but I also learned a few things about my own writing process. For a person who has ambition around writing fiction this is incredibly valuable. If you, nascent novelist, also have ambitions around writing fiction, I would like to provide a gentle nudge in the direction of participation.
One of the most important things around fiction writing is learning how to finish work that you start. This is a road toward a complete first draft. While the word count requirement to win NanoWrimo is not, strictly speaking, book length, it is enough word count to determine, at the end of it all, whether your story idea will work once you’ve polished it.
Whether or not you have something workable at the end of it, you will have learned whether the kamikaze approach to writing 1,700 words a day works for you. That’s not nothing. if you are a person who has already started and finished long work then maybe the challenge for you is producing content at a relatively blistering pace. Doing this can teach you how to work with deadlines and how you, as an individual writer, work under pressure.
Then there is the lesson that you learn when the race is over. At the end of the month, when you have your pile of words, will you remain motivated enough to complete the work and then edit? Because editing is where things become publishable. Editing is crazy important.
That said, for a lot of us who have been writing for a while NanoWrimo can be a way to force us to shut down the inner editor for a month and simply produce work. We can play on the page unfettered by an impulse toward perfectionism (or even legibility). We need, sometimes, to throw away the million and one restrictive lessons around grammar, narrative structure, expectations of genre, etc… in order to produce work. This is harder to do than it sounds. Nano can provide the jolt and support community it requires.
As true as it is that editing is crazy important, it is also true that we get nowhere if we have produced no work to edit. Nano shows us one road toward producing that work. If you are not sure about your process, this is a good way to learn something about what works for you, and what doesn’t.
That’s my two cents.