This is the first year I participated in Nanowrimo – the National Novel Writing Month that happens every year in the month of November. I think, the word “Na” standing for “National” is a misnomer. The event is not restricted to the nationals of USA. It’s truely an international event and writers from all around the world participate in it.
So, my experiences.
I had outlined the novel – the plot points for around a week before the event started. As I had planned:
1) It was to be a stand alone novel
2) Plot points I thought was sufficient to write 50K words
While I galloped during the first fifteen thousand words, thereafter a stage of stasis came along (see image). The reason was, I was writing the manuscript in a linear manner. From page one to last, as I had thought about it.
Nanowrimo is a journey of discovery of ones potential and creativity, and also tools and techniques that one might improvise and apply. I found, I was getting stuck at certain scenes that needed research, and more exposition. That was not possible, when the pressure is of word count, and clock keeps ticking keeping the pressure of word counts.
So, I changed the strategy. Instead of following a linear way, I started to write “scenes”. The kind of imagery, I would get from time to time, while thinking of the story, I would write in form of scenes.
This was also a major learning for me because till now, I had always written in a linear manner, not considering the random scenes from anywhere in the book, even though I am aware of certain authors like V.E. Schwab who says she writes her last scene / chapter first because she wants to know where her writing would be moving. This I now realise is definitely a sane advice.
Coming to the point, if Nanowrimo experience were a questionnaire, it would be like this:
1) Having written 50K words, is my novel finished? Heck No! Its hardly 50% finished. Let me put it this way:
Good writing: 20%
Normal writing: 50%
Bad writing: 30%
2) So, is all bad writing going to be junk and just written for the sake of the magic 50K words of Nanowrimo target?
It’s really not like that. Bad writing is still some writing, it still contains ideas, and it can be improved. No writing means, you have nothing at hand. Bad writing can be improvised to make it good. It gives a sense of purpose, a direction. No writing is staring at a blank page.
3) What have been written is that useful? Yes, definitely. It has the seeds of a full fledged novel in it.
4) Is such rushed writing useful? Yes, because the professional writers write 2K to 3K everyday as part of routine. It gets you the insight into long hours of solitary thinking and writing.
5) Will the novel work out, as I had thought or conceptualised? Nope. While the broad plot points remain, there are many twists and turns that entered my mind, while I was writing. I think the time I gave for planning, about a week was too little. Its not a right strategy to outline briefly and jump to full fledged writing. At least, one month of full time planning with detailed notes is what is required when planning a novel.
6) Any other ideas? Self doubt in middle is very dangerous, and it exaggerates and may even jeopardise the writing. The only panacea is a proper planning of the book.
7) Any other positives? Yes. I can now think of the solitary book as a series. Don’t know if thats a positive, but from the readers of SFF, I have gathered that they prefer series rather than standalones. The reason is obvious, when one has slowly drawn to a unique world of author’s creation, they prefer to read more of it, of-course, that is dependent on if they like the first book.
8) So, do I have better idea about the novel, compared to when I started? Definitely yes. Despite the rushed writing, and some bad writing, I have a better understanding of where my novel is moving, both in terms of direction and content.
9) Did I miss anything while in the ocean of Nano? Heck yes! I missed reading. Often before I start to write, I prefer to read something good, doesn’t even matter if I read the same 10 pages of the same book again that I have read five times before. Trusted reading, puts me in flow of imagination and words. This November, I did not read anything, I just kept thinking about the book ms, the plots and characters, that in the last week changed its dimensions from thinking to more in the nature of worrying, whether I would be able to do the 50K.
10) So, am I happy about the 50K words? Yes! I am happy to have participated and be a part of that journey of self discovery and learning that is provided by Nanowrimo.