With NaNoWriMo on the horizon – less than 36 hours to go – I’m seeing lots of people talking about writing their NaNo novel. I’m not participating this year because I’m in revision mode on Book 2, but since I took a NaNo approach to drafting it, I figured I’d share a little bit about the post-NaNo fate of what will get written in November.
A lot of what you write? It’s going to get scrapped. You’ll revise most of what doesn’t get scrapped. And you’ll add new pieces.
The great thing about NaNo is it forces you to write. When you have to sit down and just write, your subconscious starting throwing all sorts of stuff up against the wall and you make connections and leaps you never would have come up with if you stopped to think. It’s why I rely so heavily on Write or Die when I’m drafting. It gives that same feel when it’s not November. During Book 2 drafting, all sorts of stuff bubbled up when I switched to WoD in an effort to just get the darn thing written. It went from an entertaining novella to a book that digs deep into the forces that shaped Dan, Evan, Liz and Exeter during that one summer. But right now, it’s a mess.
The thing with all the great ideas that came up when I was about a third of the way into my draft is that the earlier chapters don’t have the necessary pieces to set them up. That’s where revision comes in. It’s necessary on any project. But when speed is a big factor in the initial draft, revision becomes even more key. I actually declared the draft done even though it really wasn’t. I had my HWYS moment done, and I had lots of pieces. But I knew the story needed some perspective and focus. I put it down, stepped away for a week and focused on the story I now know I’m telling.
The step back has been good. I now have an outline for the book this will be when I’m done, and I’ve slapped in the pieces that fit where they go. Still not starting in on revisions until after next weekend so I have enough distance from what I wrote under the influence of the ticking timer. It’s a common writing tip to write hot and edit cool. This round of revisions will have some of both. I have a lot of scenes that don’t exist now and need drafting. But I also have a lot that needs that cooler perspective to allow revisions.
Once November’s over, put the draft away. Enjoy the holidays. And come back to it in January with that cooler head and revision perspective.