Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just Write!

In November of 2012 I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write the first draft of a novel, defined as 50,000 words, in thirty days. That breaks down to 1,667 words per day. An idea for a novel had popped into my head one day in late August. In September, while vacationing with my son and dogs on Bald Head Island, North Carolina, I did the character development and a general plot outline.

So when November 1st, the first day of NaNoWriMo and also my birthday, rolled around I was ready. Over thinking and striving for perfection can derail writing. This process allows no time for either of those. One has to let go and just write, write, write. There is no stopping to look something up or rethink the structure of a sentence. There is no time to seek that perfect word or phrase. To get the job done you have to sit down and just plow through.

I learned if I had two possible directions to go to just pick one and go there. And if that didn't feel right when I got through it to just grab that other direction and write from there. I did not delete any wrong turns or less than lovely sentences; I just wrote.

And amazing things happened. The more I wrote the more the words came. A new character appeared. A new plot line emerged. Dialogue flowed. Now was all of this golden? Of course not! But as I kept going I stopped worrying about it and just wrote.

I had two goals. I wanted to get to 50,000 words and I wanted a draft that had a beginning, middle, and an end. So I planned that when I got to 40,000 words I would begin to craft an ending. I was not completely successful. I ended up with three possible endings and wrote them all. I finished the challenge early, on Thanksgiving Day, and submitted my 51, 516 words to join the winner's circle.

I let it sit for a week or so and then read the draft. The good news is that I liked it, a lot. How did that happen? How did some fine writing come from this crazy process? Yet, there it was.

Not all of it was good. Some I just cut. Some I realized was probably the basis of another novel, a different story. There were gaps in the story line. I had vacillated between first person and third person. I experimented with using multiple points of view. In other words, lots of work to do!

I needed some motivation to move to the next step and found it in Camp NaNoWriMo. While NaNoWriMo specifies that you begin a new novel, Camp NaNo is designed for works in progress.  I set a goal of 25,000 new words to fill in the gaps and flesh out the story. At 25,621 new words, I did it!  I can proudly add a Camp NaNoWriMo winner badge.  I'm planning to go to camp again when it is offered in July with the goal of polishing this draft to the point where I can give it to some trusted readers for feedback.

If you're a writer and looking for a process to fuel your work, I recommend this. Check it out at  NaNoWriMo and just write!

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