November is the month of the annual National Novel Writing Month when masochistic… er… motivated writers from around the world gather together (online) and try to reach individual goals of 50,000 words in one month’s time span.
I’m participating this year, and in previous years I made it only to 9,000 words before failing. It’s less about the quality of what you write, but more that you write as often as possible on one project and you push aside your judgmental feelings and urges to revise as you write your first draft.
As Americans, nay, as a people we have been taught from a young age that we are not allowed to make mistakes and we’re expected to be absolutely perfect from the first try. We have forgotten that it took us a lot of tries and trial and error and practice to become our ‘perfect’ selves.
NANOWRIMO reminds us that the first draft doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to flow, it doesn’t have to have continuity and it can be full of plot holes. It doesn’t even have to make sense on the first read through.
The writing process that we learned as kids in school is soon forgotten and overridden by our almost obsessive need to be absolutely perfect in every way.
I’ve added in a diagram of the writing process to better help others understand that the process itself is important. From the first thought of the ideas of what you want to write about you’ve entered the Pre-writing process, you’re brainstorming and coming up with ideas you want to use in your piece. Thinking of points of interest that may catch the eye of the reader.
Soon your muse strikes and you get motivated and you begin drafting out what you want to become the basis of your story or paper. You might try writing out your major plot points or twists in more of a storyboard kind of manner and then arranging them as you see fit, but the moment you start writing you are drafting. This is where NANOWRIMO comes in, they urge you to put out your 50,000 word draft in 30 days. No skipping to the proofreading and editing part of the writing process, no revision, no re-writing.
It’s a very freeing experience to not have to worry so much about being perfect and let go and just let the story go off into the direction I always mean it to go before I go back and change my mind because I re-read parts and decided I didn’t like how they flowed. Without having to worry about revision right away it lets me focus on just getting that first draft hammered out and worrying about revisions and editing later. After all, that’s why there is more than just three steps in the process.
You will end up going back and forth between parts of the process as your story or paper develops and grows, but the most important thing to do is just finish your first draft. I always have let other things distract me from what I want to finish, but as long as I (you) work on it a little every day it’s not an impossible goal.
Don’t be scared of the 50,000 word goal, many Wrimos (NANOWRIMO participants) exceed their goal of 50,000 words as they get into the story as it develops and they feel the blockage of needing to rewrite fall away. There is a large support network made up of other participants and it’s not a competition, and everyone may or may not meet the 50k goal, some will exceed it.
Give it a shot, and you may surprise yourself.