Last year, I gave National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, in the online world) a firm but gentle “It’s not you, it’s me” speech and vowed never again to spend a November panicking over word counts. My reasons were sound, and the decision seemed utterly sensible in light of my work situation and my fiction writing goals.
Predictably, on November 1st, I launched into a new story. It’s tentatively called “Misspelled,” and it’s an urban fantasy through which I’m hoping to explore things like PTSD, grieving, and how Army combatives training would hold up against necromancers. Yeah, it’s sort of hard for me to keep my “Serious Hat” on for very long – it’s windy here, you know.
I have always struggled with the impulse to edit every sentence as I go, usually seven or eight times until it’s “perfect”. That habit is most of the reason for the stack of unfinished drafts languishing on my hard drive. Honestly, I would rather have a finished draft that needs heavy editing, so this month’s insane writing marathon is apparently some sort of aversion therapy for my compulsion.
Four days in, I think the current draft of Misspelled is shaping up the be worst thing I have ever written. On Day Two, I realized that in my haste, I had painfully dislocated my protagonist’s shoulder in a barfight, only to forget all about it by the next page. So far, I’ve fought the urge to go back and fix that and other errors, but I have a whole file full of notes for future revision.
Author Chris Hill recently made some very astute and very important observations about National Novel Writing Month and the whole speed-writing trend on his blog. It started one of the best comment threads I’ve read in a long time, because lots of people have opinions, experiences, and insights to share, and it’s interesting to see some real discussion on this topic. Ultimately, the real takeaway is this: National Novel Writing Month may or may not (depending on the writer) be a great motivating tool for finishing a first draft of your novel, but please, for the sake of your own credibility and that of any other writer who hopes to self-publish their best work, remember that what you are writing this November is a first draft. Revise, edit, seek feedback from trusted friends, hire an editor, and make sure your work is finished and polished before you head over to Createspace or Amazon.
Meanwhile, I’m going to keep plowing through this draft. It’s horrible, messy, awkward, and slightly embarrassing – but that’s what a first draft is.