Feb 11, 2015

What I've learned from NaNoWriMo

   It's taken me six years to learn five simple(?) things.
   I couldn't decide whether to make this a helpful post for writers, or just a retelling of my experiences and lessons learned. 
   I hope it is helpful in some way. 
   I really don't consider myself an expert on the subject, but here we go. Five things I learned 300,000 words later.
    Took me long enough, didn't it?

Writing slowly and thoughtfully is always the best choice

     When NaNo begins, the first couple of days are fantastic. The words bloom and roll, and are ever abundant. But by the end of the month I'm noticing they get more and more sparse by the day, especially in my writing. I'm barely dragging along, writing as few words as necessary to get my word count. I'm sure every NaNo-er has suffered thus. But - my book suffers more than my sanity. Luscious with words at the beginning, then nothing but a drab dribble at the end, this is a real problem for me. On my To Remember list - Instead of belting out all that creative energy right away, try to save some for the end of the month.  Slow and thoughtful is the key. This may not be the most realistic choice for some people, after all, there is editing and revising, isn't there? Yes. This is true. Unless you believe in the sacred first draft. Oh, nightmares. But there is some validity, I believe, to this. For one, you are not always inspired the same way every time. Nor do you remember your exact thoughts upon writing a certain sentence, scene, chapter, etc. It is most important to get your exact thoughts at that certain time down on paper in the most accurate descriptions. Because nothing compares to the first time you create something.   

It doesn't really get easier with time 
    It was very hard the first year. But looking back now, it was the easiest. That's probably due to a lot of things in my personal life, and also due to the story I wrote. It was a fairly easy book to write. That's due to a lot, too, but generally because I had no aim for the book, I  just wanted to write 50,000 words and actually finish a book! 

     In some respects it does get much easier. But pushing words out onto a page, 1,667 of them a day, never gets easier. It gets easier to push the tormenting inner editor away. It gets easier to just write the thing, but not really. You still run into problems, lack of enthusiasm, lack of motivation, lack of sufficient inspiration. But you can still write without inspiration, which leads me into the third point.

Needed pressure. Unwanted pressure.
    NaNo was great for me because it made me finish a story. Peer pressure and the pressure of not getting a set goal of words written helped me stay motivated. It was very helpful to learn how you can use peer pressure and a word goal to motivate yourself and get those words down.

     But - I don't want to write every book or story that way. I don't like to be pressured all the time when I'm making something, because I can very easily become in entangled in the web of trying to please everyone and be like everyone else. Art, to me, deserves a special time to be created with love and care, and your whole heart. Now, sometimes I feel I can't write well if I'm not inspired, but . . . 

NaNoWriMo taught me I can write hard
     It taught me that I can get these words out without having to be inspired, without having to be perfect, and that they're usually not as horrible as I think they are. Daniel Schwabauer, writer of OYAN(One Year Adventure Novel), taught the first lesson I had ever heard on that subject. I believed him, but the problem was I didn't understand it. Then I experienced NaNo, and learned that lesson rather quickly. Knowing you don't have to write perfectly everyday is a survival tool if you are taking on November! At first, the word count seemed impossible, but NaNo taught me it was completely possible to write them, that inspiration is not always needed. The words are in there, they can and will come out.

NaNoWriMo taught me that I absolutely hate editing
     When I write a story I want it to be done! When I finish a story I love how it is. Yes, even when I know some bits are rotten to the core and need help, I still love it. I am loathe to make major changes to it because I am(sorta) a firm believer in the sacred the first draft. I don't believe the stories are mine at all. I believe they're all their own, they belong to themselves. They're real people who live lives I couldn't even have dared to hope existed. I could never understand how writers could go back into their stories and tear them limb from limb, change things so drastically, and goodness - actually rewrite scenes?!

     Now, don't start thinking I'm some spiritual, holy, pantheistic, hoo-doo, whatcha-ma-thingy. I am learning that revision, rewriting, and editing does have some credence when writing for publication. And I am learning to rectify the belief in a sacred first draft. Not entirely, though. I want to keep some of it. Editing, revision, and rewriting is not subtracting, it is adding. It is deepening, rounding, and honing. It is not less of the characters you love, it is MORE of them. MORE of their heart and soul, you get to uncover a deeper understanding of who they are and all they want to be. And - you get to love them more. Lots more. 'Cause this editing thing takes longer than you want to believe.

     I still can't comprehend rewriting an entire story 5 or 6 times, though. Probably because I haven't experienced the need. But books need more than just a rough draft if readers are ever going to connect to and love them as much as I.

     Now. How about a cuppa? It can be tea, or hot chocolate. I suppose coffee is acceptable, too, but an emphasis on the hot chocolate, please.
     Have your cuppa? Lovely. Let's go make some art . . .

1 comment:

Katie said...

Good post!

I'm ready for a cuppa!

Love you,