Two books, one year

I was able to get about half of a chapter done last week. I set myself up in a Second Cup downtown, ordered a small chai latte, and plunked down in a chair near a fireplace display. This was another of those writing sessions where I discovered things as I went along, reasons why things work, explanations, etc. I also wrote a major contradiction, but staying true to NaNo rules, I ignored it and told myself it will get fixed in editing. Also, I didn’t want to cross out a whole paragraph of text. On a computer, it’s nice to pretend it never existed, it stays pretty. Here, every mistake shows up as a bar of black ink, or a furious scrawl.

I really enjoyed the latest NaNo mail I got. The beginning of it reads:

I recently met a woman named Ruth who approached me with her head hung low. “I’m sorry, but I failed NaNoWriMo,” she plaintively said. “I only wrote 10,000 words.”

I hate to hear such words. They disturb me like few others.

“You didn’t only do anything,” I replied. “You bravely signed up to make creativity a priority for a month in a busy life. You dreamed up a fantastic novel idea. You wrote thousands of words. You established creative momentum in your life. That’s huge!”

– Grant Faulkner, executive director

I wasn’t beating myself up over not having reached my goal of 50,000 words in one month, but it’s always nice to have reassurance. NaNoWriMo is such a supportive group and I don’t know that I would be working so hard to finish another book right now if I hadn’t participated last year and then again last month. Before NaNo, I was under the illusion that writer’s block was real, that the best time to write was when inspiration struck, that somehow I would find myself flooded with ideas and thousands of words would come pouring out in an afternoon.

Also, their attitude of plunging ahead and never looking back helped me realize that the elements of a rough draft do not have to be perfect. They have to lead from one scene to the next until the end of the story is found. Then the heavy machinery can be brought in to polish and clean and reshape until a scattered mess of points resembles a journey, until the characters are consistent and defined, until a pile of words resembles a book.

By the time this post goes live, I should be applying these lessons over another chai latte, continuing the journey of my characters. As I write this, I’m just shy of 20,000 words. If I continue at this pace, I’ll hit 100,000 by the end of August. I’ll have two rough drafts, or perhaps one rough draft and one second draft, all in the space of one year. It’s hard to believe I could go from having so many unfinished drafts to two complete rough drafts in such short time. All because I decided to try something different and challenge myself. (Okay, because my husband got tired of my whining and told me to do something. Thanks, dear. I really appreciate it.)

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2 thoughts on “Two books, one year

    • I’m much more proud of 100 pages of pen-written text than the same on a computer screen. Lately, I’ve taken to opening the calculator on my computer and typing +1, then hitting the enter key with my right hand as my left hand follows the words I’ve written. It’s not ideal, but I don’t have to worry about losing my count.

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