As I’m sure some of you are aware, November is National Novel Writing Month which, in truth, is something of a global phenomenon.
I’ve been fortunate and dedicated enough to have completed NaNoWriMo several times already, owing largely to a terribly stubborn nature, and a willingness to commit everything at the last minute, if it comes to that.
November is naturally a time for anxiety. It can be somewhat dangerous because of what many perceive it to promise – a novel that one can send off to an editor.
You don’t get that. You get the barebones of a first draft. If I were to count every NaNoWriMo (including practice events) project for which I’ve managed to hit the word count, I’d have finished almost a dozen novels by now.
But a novel is far more difficult and far more time consuming than even that momentous feat of fifty thousand words in a month. While you can slam out a powerful concept, and get the idea on paper, the work has only just begun.
Some novels will not be finished in 50k words. Some novels may need drastic changes to story and structure. Most need to be rewritten entirely. It’s easy to be beguiled into thinking that, after all the toil and sweat that went into such a labour of love (and a little anger!) that it must surely be good enough, just like that.
When writing NaNoWriMo, though, I find that fatigue is the greatest threat to quality writing. Some people (myself included) write too much in a day to catch up. Or we write when we’re tired and it turns out a little sloppy. These are things that can happy to any writer. If we’re not careful, though, we can mistake that difficult writing for quality writing. Quality writing is rarely served raw. We’ve usually got to work on it a fair bit.
So what will I write in November? This is a question that becomes more and more difficult to answer every year.
I do not want to start a new project. I already have far too many on my plate that I need to get finished first. I’ve saved an old project for just such an occasion.
I’ve recently been told via Twitter that DnD characters make for poor book characters. This is likely true, but it is perhaps a little late for my hobby project that has started to novelise the exploits of the group of characters in the first DnD campaign that I ever DMed.
The concern now is that I may just be writing for the sake of ticking the NaNoWriMo box. Writing just to say I’ve ‘done the thing’. Perhaps true.
But writing for the sake of writing doesn’t mean that no good will come of it. The more we practice anything, the better we become, and even sloppy, silly projects such as this can teach us something new.
I have no illusions, though – I’ve written this project for two prior NaNoWriMos, and I’m writing again for a third. I’m not, under any circumstances, expecting that this is going to be a published novel. Or even a good book. It’s fun, and that’s what writing should always boil down to.
Don’t be anxious if you don’t hit your goal on your first attempt. After all, how boring would life be if we never had to truly strive and work at something to achieve success?