I’ve written about NaNoWriMo before, but for any who may yet be unaware, I will give a brief rundown again. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, with the main event in November and two ‘practice’ events in April and July. It’s a really crazy personal challenge competition where you aim to write a novel in a month – around fifty thousand words.
I attempt this every time – three times a year, meaning I write at least 150k words a year, if I succeed on each attempt. This alone qualifies me for total and utter madness. In this most recent attempt, I wrote some seventeen thousand words in three days in order to finish on time.
Now I understand that you might think this is impressive. When I have told people this recently, they have primarily reacted with simply “whoa”, then something to the effect of “that’s really great” or “I wish I could write like that”. My response is yes, whoa, that’s a good first reaction. However no, it is not great, and you do not wish you could write like that.
Any of us that have ever pulled an all-nighter or even just stayed up really late in order to get something done knows what happens to the quality of their work. It’s often garbage. Don’t get me wrong, some people have amazing willpower, but none of us can be at our best in that state.
You see, writing that much in a single day is like staying up all night. The longer and longer you write for, the worse your writing gets within that day. It’s insane to write that much in a single day, because quality takes a steep dive when you so desperately pursue quantity. I know that even 1700-odd words a day is a lot (the average daily count for NaNoWriMo), but that makes five thousand ridiculous.
It’s not great, because I should have planned it better. Each time that I attempt NaNoWriMo or one of its practice events, my work ethic for it gets a little sloppier. I hardly ever write anything on the first day. and I slowly slip behind before writing enormous amounts in an exhausted panic for the last few days. Me writing so much is certainly a sign of my stubbornness, but not a sign of me being a good writer.
People say that they wish they could write as much as I can, but they’ve hardly ever read any of my raw writing (nor am I likely to let them). I could write a two thousand word essay in a day, but a good essay of that size takes longer. It requires edits and it requires reworking and evaluation of each sentence.
I would be a better writing if I wrote every day, even if it were only a hundred words. I would be a better writer if I slept more and stressed less. There are many ifs. This, however is one of those things that is in my control. Good art takes time, as any artist can tell you. Whether it’s music, painting, or even writers such as myself, we can all agree that you need to be careful with your work and take your time.
Sure, writers never send through a raw draft as a submission, but a great piece of writing will often start off as a good draft. If I’m rushing things too much in a short period of time, it will be a bad draft. I personally believe it is.
The storyline I’ve got is great. Imagining storylines and conflicts is perhaps my greatest talent, but the characters and dialogue need so much work. They would need less if I had taken the time to write them better, to imagine the characters and how they speak. It’s easier to do something right the first time than to come back and fix it, after all. A book will never be perfect the very first time is written, but then it never will be afterwards. You owe it to yourself to do the best job you can the first time around, even if you have to touch a few things up later.
Let me know if you’re keen on Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I’m keen to write with a few other people!