I've checked out the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) website. Lots of authors I totally respect are signed up and typing away furiously. Writers are challenged to complete a 50K novel in one month. It seems like a great way to make a writer push forward. And yet . . .
I'm not a fan.
There seems to be more stick than carrot here. Depending on which sort of motivation you sign up for, your novel can start "unwriting" itself if you fail to meet your quota of words. Doesn't trip my trigger. Even the more gentle version seems a bit naggy to me.
If you visit National Novel Writers Month's website, they freely admit you will be writing a large amount of junk. And I quote:
"Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing."
Hmmmm. . . Why is that a good thing?
I'm in favor of getting out of my own way and letting words flow. I regularly set a timer and promise myself that for the next 20 minutes I'll only go forward. But when the timer dings, I go back and clean up my mess. 50,000 words of mess would totally overwhelm me.
I'm all for re-writing. I do it all the time. In small manageable increments.
But Donald Maas, author of WRITING THE BREAK-OUT NOVEL and noted literary agent, says it's better to get things right the first time. My goal when I type THE END is to have a manuscript that, in a pinch, I could send right in. (However, neurotic wretch that I am, I usually try to arrange matters so that I have a few weeks to tweak things before I let my editor have a crack at it.)
Now, I'm not saying I can't pants a novel. I wrote both my novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL and my upcoming STROKE OF GENIUS without bothering to put together a synopsis first. The freedom of flying without a net is wonderfully exciting.
But there's a certain amount of pre-writing I need to do to prime the pump. I need to have a clear picture of my characters and their goals. I know a number of the major plot points. The rough shape of the story is in my head, even if the details are fuzzy. I need to know when and where the story takes place and how the events going on in the world at that time impact my characters' lives. As a historical author, I'm constantly researching as I write.
If I devoted a whole month to quantity of output instead of trying to make the quality of the writing the best I can, I would be wasting my time. I belong to the tortoise school of authorship. Slow and steady wins the race. Regular, sustainable writing is more productive for me than manic outbursts. Even when I was working 40 hours a week at a day job, I had a daily and weekly page count goal (it was 25 a week then which will get you 400 pages in 4 months. 3 completed manuscripts a year. Not bad for a turtle!)
That said, there are as many ways to write a book as there are authors out there doing it. If NaNoWriMo works for you, go for it. I'm happy for you.
It would drive me crazy.
And if you are a tortoise like me, don't let anyone make you feel bad about it. She also writes who does a little everyday.
If you think I'm wrong, please feel free to point out whatever I've missed. For those of you slugging it out in the trenches, do you have a daily page count? Weekly? Do you have a finish date for your current WIP?
PS. Just to show there's no hard feelings, here's a link for a contest especially for NaNo Writers: First Sentence Contest.