The NaNoWriMo Draft

As I continue plugging away at the rough draft of my novel, I’ve had to accept that even with a first round of edits, it’s unreadable. I still wouldn’t show it to my mother.

That’s because I’m working with a NaNoWriMo draft, which isn’t a true first draft. The style in which I wrote the novel was almost all physical – it is all plot. Every night, I forced myself to write without looking back. All my energy was concentrated on forward momentum. I wrote on, even when I couldn’t find my way in transitioning between scenes. This left a lot to fix, which is why I’m not surprised that during my first draft edit, I’ve added over 10k words and am struggling to reach the halfway point in the draft.

But it’s all a learning experience. I’m definitely fine tuning my writing process as a fiction writer, which is much different from my process as a technical writer. My NaNoWriMo draft was underwritten, and all my updates on this first edit are overwritten. I already know that I will edit out half of the content I’ve added. I’m overwriting to get all of the ideas and thoughts out. My second edit will be more about tightening the story up.

So, what have I learned from this experience?

First, I don’t think I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo again. It was a great experience, and I loved the challenge, but the approach doesn’t work for me.

Second, I’ve developed better discipline. Despite getting off track a few times, I have written more in the last 10 months than I’d written in the last few years. I have also written more consistently on a daily basis and have found my inner commitment that makes me want to continue this path. My issue is making and finding time to write. This will always be a struggle, and I will just have to deal with it. I’ve missed a day here and there over the last few weeks, but for the most part, I’ve written/edited at least a page per day.

Last, I can’t force myself to finish by a certain time. I need to relax. I need breaks. I need to look at it more like a job, working on the novel during the week but giving myself breathing space on the weekends to write for other mediums. Tonight, it’s a blog post. Tomorrow, it’s the outline for my next novel.

As long as I’m writing, I’m doing what I love. With discipline and the practice I got with my NaNoWriMo draft, I think I’ll eventually have something I can show my mother.

Only a slight improvement on writing

The best writing advice anyone will ever give you is practice, practice, practice and read, read, read. I’ve got the reading part down, kind of, and one of the main reasons I created this blog was to practice my writing. Three posts in (including this one) and a couple of ideas in draft later, I don’t think I’m improving much.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect to see a miraculous improvement over three days, but I did expect to take extra time on my writing. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of my life. For each of the last few days, I’ve rushed to put fingers to keyboard to get a few minutes of writing in. Although this is an improvement over not writing at all, I doubt rushing to write a blog post every day is going to help me improve my writing much. And I doubt it gets me closer to finishing one of the novels I started.

Obviously, there’s an easy solution to this problem. If I can manage to start writing earlier in the evening, I will. I’m not going to beat myself up over it or anything. Eventually, I’ll get the practice bit down as well as I have the reading bit down. I may have to ease myself into it, just like I have to ease myself into reading quality novels instead of poorly written chick lit. But that’s a topic for another day.

Here’s my modified writing advice for improving your writing: practice, but don’t rush; read as much as you can, but avoid the chick lit.