National Novel Writing Month is over, and I did it: 50,000 words in 30 days. What I came up with remains to be seen. I did zero editing throughout the month, only churning away at the word count. I’m nowhere close to being finished with the first draft. (50K words do not a novel make, folks.) But I’ve reached the point in the story that I’m not ready to move forward without reviewing what’s been written, although I haven’t even done that yet. After finishing up on Nov. 30, I’ve given myself a few days off to decompress.
In hindsight, my views of National Novel Writing Month haven’t really changed. I find it gimmicky and potentially harmful to the writing process, emphasizing quantity over quality. The quest for goal leaves little time for fleshing out the story, learning who your characters are, and letting the novel organically emerge. So I could very well have a lot of crap when I begin reviewing it, as do most participants, I’m sure.
So why did I do it, then? Because I needed a push to get myself writing on this project. And in that regard, it was a giant success for me. I did the appropriate pre-planning, sketching out my story and characters well before the start date. That made reaching goal each day a little easier. And I’ll give the NaNoWriMo folks credit for establishing a support system with their website. I linked up with some other writers in the region on the site’s forums and was impressed with the friendships I saw being formed. Some locals expanded beyond the forums by holding write-ins and celebratory dinners, and forming an ongoing writing group. My schedule and a little distance kept me from participating, unfortunately. Plus I don’t do well with any distraction while writing. I don’t even let the cat into the room, for goodness sake.
Would I do NaNoWriMo again? Sure, but let’s expand it a little. I noticed a lot of folks on the forums talking about their last-minute decision on Oct. 31 to participate. Seriously? That’s why so many folks don’t make it through to the end. Let’s back up a bit next year. Use October as National Novel Planning Month and get all your ducks in a row! Flesh out your book so that when Nov. 1 rolls around, you’ll know what in the hell you’re going to write. Then crank that sucker out in November. Follow up, if you’re ready, with National Novel Editing Month in December.
Or not. There’s actually a NaNoEdMo movement out there, and it suggests putting your novel away for a few months, picking it up again in March. Hey, whatever works for you. As I said earlier, 50,000 words is not a full novel. I want to have a complete first draft done before I step away for any real stretch of time. So, for me, December is serving that purpose. Wish me luck, again.