National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us once again. I’ve decided to do it this year. For all of you non-writers, here’s the deal.
The concept behind it is that every writer (and many non-writers) talk for years about that book they would write if….If…If….So, the concept is to remove the “if.” For the month of November, the writer’s community challenges one another to write an entire draft, or 50,000 words toward one, in the space of one month.
During NaNoWriMo, there’s a lot of support in various writing communities, both online and in-person. Online vendors will sometimes offer discounted writing reference books or software applications during the months of October and November, and various forums and organizations try to create a buzz to keep people motivated.
The first time I heard about NaNoWriMo, I thought it sounded kind of nerdy and would seem to create shoddy manuscripts. But, this year, I’ve decided to give it a try. I’ve got a manuscript I tirelessly churned out over the course of a year. But, it’s a first draft and needs a lot of work. I took a year a half break from it, and lately it’s been burning in my head again. I’ve looked at it a few times, and tweaked things here and there, but I’m having a hard time delving into the surgery that it needs.
For one, I’ve become a stronger writer in the last two years. I can see that just by reading those first chapters. Every time I open the manuscript file, I cut things here or there, or change things, or make a description stronger. The characters, while resolved in plot, still live on in my head. During the writing process, I had trained my mind to use ordinary life and experiences to inspire scenes, dialogue, or plot twists
Now it’s automatic. I will frequently see scenes or character tweaks. Often times, whole dialogue exchanges will pop into my head, sometimes even complete with exposition. The cardinal rule of writing is to get it down. Great ideas do nothing for you if they only live in your head. So, I have files where I am keeping all of these “scraps,” for later possible use. From time to time, I will insert them in the manuscript, making it so much stronger, I am almost embarrassed of the first draft.
Not only that, but close to two years away has given me a fresh perspective. I can walk into the novel with a pair of scissors, and cut the fat out without blinking. I can see where a scene that I was in love with three years ago doesn’t work. And, snip, snip, it’s gone. I can see where a dialogue exchange that I once thought was telling and worthwhile, is actually too mundane and can be reduced to a couple of expository sentences. I can see where a scene, that I was so proud of because it incorporated a great description, in fact, runs too short, and either needs to be lengthened, or somehow reworked to fit into another scene….
But in other ways, the story isn’t “in me” anymore. If I were to begin this book today, it wouldn’t be the same book. For one thing, most main characters are in some way an extension of the writer, who the writer really is inside, or who they hope to be, who they wish they were, or even different aspects of the writer, taken to their full extent…
And, I have changed, grown. So, it stands to reason that my characters would too. But, I can’t rewrite the entire thing. So, I worry that cutting out the fat, is in fact cutting out the life of the piece. I think this may be a long way of saying that I am tired of this book.
But, I have decided the NaNoWriMo is going to break the staleness. I’m going to spend November editing this piece as much as I can. At the end of the month, I will send it an editor. (Which, I think I may have found one, by the way!)
I have been stuck on this “platform,” thing for a while. Agents won’t touch you unless you come with a built-in fan base. I’ve spent a year trying to do that, and at this point, I kind of feel like, screw that. If I have to build my own fan base, why do I need an agent, or publisher? Why don’t I just self-publish? It would be expensive, but I would have it done.
So, that’s more where I am heading right now. The book is back on the table.