Friday, October 29, 2010

The long answer

"Are you doing NaNoWriMo?"

I've had a number of folks ask me this or some variation of this question over the past few weeks. I've thought about it. I've talked with Bren about it. We both have some novel-length projects on deck that could use the mad-1,666(.666)-words-a-day-dash that National Novel Writing Month thrusts upon its participants.

However, this year I've been learning some things about my own writing process. In 2006, I participated in NaNoWriMo and "won." That is, I completed my 50,000-word novel, and it was a lot of fun. It was a learning experience; it was cathartic; it was surprising (in that I surprised myself while writing it!). I didn't have a solid game plan when I sat down to write that novel. I had a basic idea, sat down and let the words go. It worked out okay for me. (Although I did run into a minor problem when, early in November, I felt a little blocked, and decided to "fast forward" the story I was writing a little bit and write a character's death scene, intending to drop it into the story later in the month when I got to where it should fit. However, when I got to that point in the story, I found that I was attached to the fated-to-day-by-my-words character, and she became a more important person in the novel and I needed her to live. I didn't want to lose the word count, so I wrote around it, turned it into a hallucination, and moved on!)

Of course I gave the novel a REAL quick edit before sending it off to Lulu.com to print up my one complimentary copy, and then decided to make the novel available for sale through Lulu as well. Out of the blue, the novel got some reviews which called me on some of the issues inherent in writing a novel in 30 days and not giving it a solid edit, but also said some encouraging things about my writing.

I decided to give NaNoWriMo a go the next year.

And the year after that.

Both times, I didn't make it. And it's taken me a few years to learn why.

I'm not what some of the writing podcasts I've been listening to lately call a "discovery writer."

Sometimes my short stories come about as a result sitting-down-and-just-doing-it, but the longer works with multiple characters, multiple points of view . . . ? I'm learning I need a bit more prep work.

And I'm okay with that.

So . . . will I participate in NaNoWriMo this year? No. Will I still throw down as many words as I can? You bet . . . after I've spent what I've decided is enough time working on an outline and character sketches.

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