Wednesday, 16 October 2013

NaNoWriMo teaches...

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Sienna North can help.
So, by all this outlining and pre-writing, am I defeating the spirit of NaNoWriMo?  After all, it was originally an exercise designed to get writers to push through a big barrier—namely, getting text down on a page.

A lot of apprentice writers (I refuse to call them “aspiring” writers; I myself am a journeyman) have a hard time with putting text down on a page, regardless of whether or not they’re pantsers or plotters.  (I’m a plotter.  I can't write by the seat of my pants.)

It’s because they don’t know what they’re supposed to write next.  Or sometimes, they think they know what’s supposed to be next (breathless, timeless, prose of great beauty!) and they fear that the next line they write will not meet that expectation. 

They’re right.  It won’t.

BUT… what they need to learn, what NaNoWriMo teaches them, what their mentors should be teaching them, is that it’s okay for your rough draft to be, well, rough.  Apprentice writers must allow this. Not enough of them do. Everyone’s rough drafts are rough.

Mine are rough.  I crank out my text and don’t look back until it’s down.

That’s another thing apprentice writers need to learn.  Get the text down and don’t look back.  Text needs to be down, no matter how rough.  You can’t edit a blank page.

Rough drafts are not the be-all and end-all of your creative process.  (Why do apprentices keep thinking that their first draft must be as brilliant as a last? C’mon, folks!)  They’re the start.  Then you go back and edit.

I edit all the time—though not as I go. That’s the kiss of doom, that is.

I’ll crank out a scene with no stupid back-and-forthing.  Get the stuff out.  Then I let it sit.  I go back later (on a particular schedule, and never during November) and do my editing passes.

  1.   Edit the scene so it makes sense internally.
  2.  Edit the scene so it makes sense in the overall arc.  (This involves reading the whole novel, making notes as I read, then going back, reviewing notes, and then making changes. Can't do it on the fly.)
  3.  Stylistic edits—tic words, weasel words, filter words, rhythm and pacing.
  4. Grammar and spell Czech.  Always the last pass, never before.  It’s a waste of time to do a grammar pass on a scene that may be axed entirely.

So yes, I do a whole lot of outlining and pre-writing and organising and dreaming and creating scene placeholders in yWriter before 1 Nov. 

But NaNoWriMo taught me that.  It taught me what kind of writer I am (a plotter, not a pantser).  It taught me I can crank out 50K of text in a month. (Heck, I can do it in fifteen days, now!)

NaNoWriMo gave me a challenge. Write 50K in a month.  I had to figure out how I can best accomplish that. 

That’s what every NaNo writer needs to do.

So, gonna give it a try?

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