Here’s How You Flush Your NaNoWriMo Efforts Down The Crapper

National Novel Writing Month does not matter.

Not now. Not that it’s (almost) over.

It mattered before, sure.

It’s what stuck you in the ass with a stinging thistle. It’s what got your crap-can out of bed to pound keys and make the morning word sauce. It lit the fire. It sent the smoke signals whirling up into the sky.

Good. Great. Excellent.

Now it’s gone and — what?

Now: it’s artifice. Seeds on the wind. A placebo drug with a real effect.

I did an unofficial uncounted version of NaNoWriMo this month — not because I felt like playing along but because I had 30k written in the latter half of October and needed another 50k to finish a novel for deadline. So, quite conveniently, I had the proper word count to slot into November. (For the record, I’ve since written over 50k, as the novel’s running a hair longer than expected.)

Here’s how I could fuck that all up:

I could assume that November is the only authorized time to write a novel.

I could take the 50k I wrote and be done with it.

I could stop writing beyond the margin of the event.

I could leave the manuscript as the smoldering pile of word puke that it probably is.

I could choose to save it from the fires of a scorching edit.

I could choose to keep it away from agents and publishers and readers.

I could let it lay like a half-a-fish on a sun-baked dock. Rotting. Drawing flies.

I could let it be game over, goodbye.

The point is, writing is never about that one segment of time in which you write the first draft. It’s certainly never about 50k, which barely counts as a novel in most practical instances (here is where you chime in and tell me about all those novels that were only 50,000 words long and I say yes, yes, that’s true, but those are the exception rather than the rule, but thanks so much for playing).

Simply put, writing is rarely about writing.

Writing is about thinking. And planning. And rethinking and replanning. Writing is about rewriting. Writing is about breaking it all apart and putting it back together again. Writing is about running it through the gauntlet. It’s about editing. About criticizing. Writing is about the craft of putting one word after the other and then stacking them atop one another. Writing is about the art of the story. Writing is about the crass and unpleasant dance of commerce. Writing is about you first, and the audience ever after. Writing is about sharpening the words and honing the tale until it is as sharp as a thumbtack.

Writing is about more than that one month.

Writing is about more than the first draft.

Your work continues. Hell, the work just begins. You fought the first battle of a very long war.

Fuck winning. Hell with losing. This isn’t over by a long shot.

So: here’s what I’m asking you:

How’d it go?

And what’s next? Do you have more to write?

Then what? What’s your plan?

60 comments

  • On a wild hair I stepped up and signed up for Nano. I’ve never written a short story, but I’ve spent years reading books and saying “oh I could have improved that…” So I did it. And I came up with a great idea, and the story is a good story. And yeah, the writing is really really clunky. I don’t think it’s bad, and I don’t think the story is forced. So now I’m going through the inner debate: Do a complete rewrite, or Start with revisions?

    Thing is, I keep thinking of ways the story could be better. Do you do that? I mean – like major shifts in the story. “OH SNAP suppose the first person narrator isn’t THIS person, but it’s that person instead!?”. Should I ignore these thoughts and just try to finish my first ever collection of more than 50K words?

    I stumbled on your blog from your 25 points about Horror article. I copied the entire thing, writing it down in my notes, paraphrasing it so it would stick in my head. It’s great advice and it’s helping. Thanks for this.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds