Reflections on NaNoWriMo

I took part in National Novel Writing Month again this past November, and realized a couple of things that were new to me.

First, my writing process has always proceeded from a few scenes that came vividly to mind over several months, which I then had to try to stitch together into a story (I am not the only person who writes this way; I talked with a published novelist who does approximately the same thing). This year I tried outlining, based on Dan Wells’ 7-point structure , and it helped make the writing a easier. So now instead of being mostly a pantser, I’ve moved a little further in the direction of being an outliner. I expect I’ll always have some mix of the two, but I think the eventual balance point is going to be further towards outlining than it is right now.

Second, it helps tremendously to have a community to help out in brainstorming. I’m still in touch with some of the alumni of the Writing Excuses Retreat of 2015, and in three separate sessions they helped me flesh out my ideas and add some new ones. I was happy to be able to return the favour a few times.

Third, I’ve come to terms with my guilty feeling about writing a lot of junk weak prose during November, in between the good bits. A lot of people from WXR15, including some of the instructors, emphasized that the first draft is for getting the story out of your head and recorded in an editable form. Making it good is what separate revision passes are for.

Fourth, winning NaNo six times (barely over 50,000 words each year), I still haven’t finished a novel; I basically just stopped, exhausted, each time I got over the limit. This time I can see more clearly what the eventual shape of the story should be, and I’ve resolved to finish this one, even if I wind up trunking it when I’m done. I can’t sustain 1667 words per day over the long term at this stage of my life, but I can probably manage to write a few hundred on many days, or edit a few pages.

I’ll post again in January or February about whatever progress I’ve made.

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