NaNoWriMo has begun…
The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in November, which translates to 1,667 words per day. The true WriMo works on a novel (that is, a fictional story) and begins writing a new manuscript on the first of the month. There are, however, many WriMo “rebels” who choose to write non-fiction, or short stories, or screen plays, or…. you get the idea. The real goal is simply to write.
While I am typically a rigid rule-follower, this year I decided to take the rebellious route. I am not writing a new novel, but instead revising my 2013 manuscript. I am still like in the storyline (in fact, I have a few ideas for a possible sequel) but I need to flesh out the characters more, and ramp up the tension.
However, I consider myself a “personal essayist” and this is my first work of fiction. I have quickly discovered that my typical writing process does not work well for this kind of revision.
My typical process looks something like this:
- Select a topic
- Brainstorm an angle
- Research (this can go on for days.. months… I tend to get stuck in this phase)
- Mentally mull over structure
- Mentally mull over a starting point
- Eventually write the essay – verbally throwing-up on the page
- Revise by culling unnecessary information
- Edit for spelling/grammar errors
- Tweak endlessly until deadline dictates I am done
I spend so much mental energy on the front-end of the project that I don’t need much time for revision. I might re-arrange a few paragraphs; I might delete entire sections; I might add a bit more detail for clarity – but the basic essay is completed in that first draft.
This is not at all the case in revising fiction. First of all, a novel is considerably longer than a 500-1200 word essay. I can’t possibly keep all the details in my head. As I re-read the piece after a six-month break, I noticed glaring errors and gaping holes. The timeline is accurate, but the details need work. LOTS of work, not just a little bit of tweaking.
I thought I could revise the piece in the same manner I had written it: a chapter a day. But I realized how much I had forgotten and felt compelled to refresh my memory before making major changes. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until November 1st – which automatically put me behind schedule.
My editing OCD then clicked in, and I simply couldn’t ignore spelling/grammar errors pointed out by beta readers. I felt compelled to make the changes as I read through the piece, but this interrupted my creative thinking toward story revision. At this point I had spent two hours working on the piece, but my cumulative word count barely tallied 100 – and it was now November 3rd.
Obviously I needed to revise my revision process… and my expectations.
Therefore… I have decided to remove the pressure of completing revisions in a month – who needs that stress?! Instead, I will commit to working on the novel throughout the month and continue to do so until it finished. This may take thirty days or it may take three hundred. The timing doesn’t matter since dedication to writing is the goal.
For now, I will continue to work through a chapter at a time. I will correct grammatical errors as I go, and maintain a revision notebook on the side. I am documenting areas that need more detailed information for clarity, sections that need more “show” and far less “tell”, and ideas I might use to help bridge the narrative gap. Hopefully this can be completed by the end of November and the true work will begin.
So for all you WriMos out there… I commend you and cheer you on. I am participating in spirit, albeit a slow, methodical, rebellious spirit.