‘Bout That Time

We’re coming up on another National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve participated off and on every few years, and as November rolls around, I start thinking, I can do this.  Writing just under 1700 words a day for 30 days isn’t that hard, is it?  I think about all the emails I send out over the course of a day, the blog posts, and the amount of words I must type chatting with my friends.

I’ve done… all right… in the past.  The goal is to have a 50,000 word novel finished  by November 30th.  50,000 is more novella-length than novel, really, and what you have at the end is going to be very rough first-draft quality.  You’re not supposed to edit as you go, and that’s what trips me up.  I like being able to reread what I wrote and tweak as I go.  Yeah, I know, I can get bogged down and not progress when I do that, too, but to just fly through and never look back… ugh.

A lot of participants use “padding techniques” to up their word counts – give your main character two names (Mary Sue!) so that every time you refer to her, it’s two words instead of one.  Add a dream sequence.  Don’t use contractions.  At least one adjective for every noun!

…all things I’d edit right the fuck out on December 1st, and likely things that would make an editor cringe, too. 

I’ve gone as far as 26,000+ words in 2004.  The thing that kills my momentum is having to travel to sales conference every November, and therefore falling behind by at least three or four days.  I know, excuses, excuses.  Other people make up for lost words by doubling up on weekends, or going nonstop through their time off at Thanksgiving – why can’t I?

I don’t have a very good answer for that.  However, the breakneck pace of Nano means that if I follow the rules and write without looking back, chances are what I see on December first is going to be awful.  Salvageable, maybe, but something I’d spend more time reworking than if I’d done it at my normal pace, with my normal care.

Believe me, I’ve been there.  I have at least three pieces from three different Nano projects sitting on various hard drives.  All of them at least decent story ideas, but needing so much rewriting it’s disheartening. 

Which leads me to this:  I’m doing Nano again this year, but in a modified sense.  I won’t kill myself getting to 50,000.  My goal is to get into the habit of writing more, and seeing progress on a project.  I figure the best thing to do is start early – take time during each night in October and write, then take the average word count and set that as a Nano goal.  Maybe up the count a bit, as a challenge.

Now I just have to figure out whether to go back to one of the old ones or start something new…

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