For fun, this month I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo), which means I have made a pact with myself and thousands of other NaNoWriMo participants that I will write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel between November 1 and November 30. Tonight I got that word count up over 10,000 words, so I’m one-fifth of the way there.
Is it deathless prose or great literature? Not at all, not yet — it’s presently a glorious mess of characters and plot threads that skitter off in contradictory, unexpected directions. And that’s what makes it so much fun. Because this is my third year doing NaNoWriMo, I know that whenever my inner professional editor pipes up and starts fretting about sentence structure or plot continuity, I simply need to remind that editor and myself that my goal is to pound out the draft this month. I reassure the editor that I can clean up later, during the revision process, and then get back to writing that draft.
I think of participating in NaNoWriMo — or the drafting phase of any writing project — as being much like a kid who has been allowed to take out the art supplies and create, without worrying about whether she’s wiping up the spilled paint or erasing the smudges as she goes along. The time for cleaning up is after the party. Earlier today, I was talking to a book editing client who told me how helpful she found this analogy when she was in the process of revising and reshaping the manuscript for the second edition of her book. It helped to free her up to just write new sections and rearrange others without getting stuck in “self-edit mode” when she needed to be creating. Yes, the editing is vitally important for a polished end product, but trying to edit and draft at the same time can bring a project to a standstill.
So have that messy party first — you can clean it up later! And if you want to know more about National Novel Writing Month, visit www.nanowrimo.org for more info.