NaNoWriMo is prepping to go. Are you signing on for the wild ride?
NaNoWriMo is the shortform for (Inter)National Novel Writing Month which takes place annually. The intention is, within the 30 days of November, to write 50,000 words making up a dirty draft of a novel. It is as much a test of planning skills and endurance as it is of literary endeavour, but there is a lot of help at hand on the NaNoWriMo website, and participants often make lasting writing-goal friendships on the forums. I doff my hat to every one.
The problems can arise in early December when participants get their breaths back and look at what they have. The dirty draft reads quite well in the circumstances. In fact, with a few tweaks and a bit of a polish…
And herein lies disaster.
In a previous life I critiqued fiction, and three NaNoWriMo scripts passed before my eyes. Each had shallow characters, major holes in the storyline, and read as if enhanced film scripts. Was I unlucky? I doubt it.
Each had been written as a dirty draft, except the writer could no longer see that because it was written; it was a whole; it was done. Seeing problems in your work takes insight that beginner novelists in particular lack through dearth of experience.
I know only one selling novelist who starts with a premise and then hits the dirty draft as fast a possible. Once written she identifies the main thread and its theme, the main and subsidiary characters, and excises all non-supporting tangents. Next she researches and plans in full the characters and settings, and only then, with the theme sitting front and central in her mind, does she rewrite the novel without sight of its original incarnation.
This is what dirty drafts are for, to see if the premise holds what is needed. It is not an end in itself but a step along the way.
This year the self-publishing company LuLu is teaming up with NaNoWriMo ‘to help more authors than ever before realize their vision’. Amazon KDP, Createspace, Kobo, Nook Press, Smashwords, iBookstore… all offer writers a way of bringing their work to the floodlit global stage as a digital download or a print-on-demand paperback.
Don’t rush to publish before Christmas. As a writer you owe it to yourself to not just do it, but to do it right.