My NaNoWriMo 2016 review

Or, so you wrote 50,000 words. Now what?

I am being honest when I say how easy NaNoWriMo was for me this year. Of course, saying it was easy is a relative claim, but the fact is that this latest 50,000 words came out with less struggle than I have ever experienced writing anything long or short. I suppose that means I have somehow matured as a writer, but the reality of that notion remains to be seen.

The reason I think that is because the endeavor this latest story represents only begins with the effort of NaNoWriMo. It turns out that, as a writer, I am far more like a painter adding layers to a painting than I am a sculptor carving away stone or clay. What this means is that the story I have now still needs a lot of work to be the kind of story you’d expect to see in a book.

What does that mean? Well, first, I’m going to let it just sit for a bit. That may mean several days or several weeks, but after having expended so much effort, I find that it is good to just let the story age some before I do anything else with it.

Second, I have to compile the writing I’ve done into a readable format. It turns out that I wrote the entire story as notes in Evernote. This is basically that modern equivalent of writing a story on note cards, and it gives me the advantage of being able to easily reorder scenes as I go through my first rewrite process.

Third, I will do my first edit/rewrite. I know a lot of authors like to print out and mark up copies of their rough draft, but as I’ve noted, I tend to write like a painter rather than a sculptor, so my rough draft tends to be a lot more like a very long outline than a true story. Once I’ve completed that rewrite, I will print the story out, read it through, then mark it up.

Fourth, I will take that marked draft and type the whole story back into a new document. Yes, that means I will write the entire story again, using my draft as the source. I know a lot of people wonder why I would expend that much effort, but what I have discovered is that typing the story again forces me to revisit and rethink every single word. It is the best editing tool I have ever encountered for the way I write. Depending on the story–this happens often with short fiction I write–I could end up repeating this process more than once.

Along the way, I may show my efforts to several people or groups of people to get comments on what they think about the story as it progresses. I find that it is good to get those views along the way because other people tend to notice the plot holes I’m ignoring or other issues the story might have for a reader.

Finally, once I’ve edited and rewritten, and tweaked enough, I will take the plunge to try to get the story published. I’ve never reached this step with any long fiction I’ve ever written, and that’s saying something given that I have at least four stories somewhere along the process I describe above.

So, there is a brief outline of what happens after NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, this year’s success will prove as easy to see all the way through as it was to write for the first time.


NaNoWriMo Preview: Don’t be afraid to write crap

If you’re writing for perfection, you’re writing to fail. Perfection is what editing is for.

While writing is a different process for every writer, my style seems to be to create first drafts that are more like skeletal remains (premains?) that finished works. They’re a lot like a T-101 from the movie the Terminator, a shiny mechanical skeleton devoid of form or personality, a caricature of what I want my story to be.

In other words, its crap, and it will need a lot of work before it becomes the story I intended.

Thomas Edison famously said both “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work” and that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Those same ideas apply to writing.

Sure, all of us writers want to experience the ecstasy of the moment of creation. I think, to a degree, that’s what we all strive at writing for, yet we cannot ignore that, in some way, writing is a job that we have accepted. Jobs are hard work, and work doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, especially when the work is creative.

The secret to succeeding at writing is to just write it, knowing full well you’ll probably have to go back and write it again. And again. And again.

That’s OK. It happens to everyone.

Recently, a researcher discovered that Jane Austin’s work benefited as much from her creative efforts as it did from the efforts of a good editor, which is unfortunate because most people have believed the fiction perpetrated by her brother after her death that her novels sprang from her pen complete. Unfortunately, the fiction that good writers are somehow able to produce perfect, complete work without effort has infected writers continuously since those heady days where every artist was a great master.

The reality is something entirely different. Most writers have to craft their stories the same way potters or sculptors craft clay. Most writers write something, then add to it, take away from it, wad it up and throw it in the trash, then dig it out and add and take away some more. That’s the natural process of writing, and again, that’s OK.

What’s most important, especially if you’re just starting as a writer, is that you’re writing at all. Start with quantity first. The quality will eventually come.