Writing Wednesday, The NaNoWriMo Wrap-up

Today is December 1st.  Can you believe that!?  Where has the year gone?

I am a NaNoWriMo Winner!

That means that November is over, NaNoWriMo is officially over, and guess what?  I won!  I finished my novel with 50,552 words on the 28th of November!  I really did not think I would be able to do it.  I had a lot of schoolwork, work, and family things to do this month, (including having a baby!) that I did not think it would be possible to finish on time.  But I kept writing.  At one point I even considered cheating (ghastly, I know).  I was going to write as much as I could, not thinking that I could ever reach 50000 words, and then on the last day, I was going to add a bunch of filler text to put me over the limit and submit that to win — promising that I would finish the novel by the end of December.  I just thought, especially with my newborn son, that I would not have the time or the enthusiasm anymore to write 50,000 words.   So, I was pretty surprised when on the 27th I finished the day with only 800 words left.

This has been a wonderful experience for me.  I have learned a lot about myself and my writing.  (First off, my writing is terrible! But that’s okay, because that’s what revisions and rewrites are for! I have long known that I am far better at rewriting and editing than I am at actually writing)  I started the month with a couple of ideas, two characters and an overarching plot – Dragons are terrorizing the US West, but they are not really dragons, but the biblical destroying angels (with flaming sword, wings, etc. people described them as dragons and the rumors spread).  Now I have a very solid outline of my novel, with several plot points and a few more characters.  I will probably get rid of some of these characters in a rewrite, and probably write some new ones.  There are whole pages of this draft that will need to be expunged, but that’s part of the whole writing process.

I have tried to write novels before, and never got more than seven pages written.  That was my best effort – seven pages before I got bored, distracted, fed up with what I could see as glaring errors and bad writing.  But NaNoWriMo pushed me this month to just keep writing.  My mantra became “Write it now, fix it later.”  And it is surprising what happened when I was trying to force myself to get the word count up.  I invented new characters that I ended up liking, and new situations that actually served to move the whole plot along, when I thought they were just going to be filler passages that would be cut during rewriting.  The most important thing is that I was writing.

And I have learned, as my friend Ted did, that Writing is HARD WORK.  It really is.  Long hours staring at a stupid computer screen, trying not to waste time doing “research” on the internet that inevitably led to either YouTube video surfing, or Wikipedia link-following.  Long hours spent staring at a stupid computer screen trying to come up with just the right word or phrase to express what you want.  But I learned that this often escaped me, so I just wrote the first thing that came to mind that conveyed the general idea I wanted, with the determination to go back and fix it later.  Case in point: My absolutely favorite terrible sentence, I love it because it is so horrible, but I couldn’t think of anything  better at the time.  “They passed buildings to their left and right, their large empty windows staring out like empty eyes reflecting the emptiness within.”  Pure drivel and word vomit, but it got written, the word count increased, and I moved on!

I am actually really looking forward to fixing this novel.  I now have a completed idea to work with, I have done most of the brainstorming, most of the legwork in researching, most of the hard part in writing terrible scenes.  Now I just need to touch things up a bit, and that may require entirely reworking a scene (or most of them) but now I have a framework to go from.  When I was writing I was just writing, doing what the experts call “discovery writing” where you discover what happens as you write it.  Now I have a plot and characters that I can work with in future drafts, which will probably be significantly different from this one.

But rewriting this novel will probably have to wait until February.  Which is good, it will give it time to breath, give me time to distance myself from it and come back with fresh eyes.  I read a quote from some famous writer (Stephen King? Neil Gaiman? I don’t remember) who said that when they finish a draft they put it in the bottom of a drawer for 60 days.  I am kind of doing that out of necessity.  I have several papers due for school here in December, and by the end of January I have to write a 15-25 page paper write up of the presentation I gave in October about LDS Doctrine and the Monomyth; it’s going to be published!   So, when I am done with all of that, I will return to my novel, and spend the next couple of months making it awesome.  Then, maybe then, I’ll feel comfortable sharing parts of it.  That would be fun.

Until then, I guess there’s always time to plan for next year’s NaNoWriMo!

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