The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge is fast approaching, and I’m going to sign up again. I did the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in the summer this year and it was a blast. The potent combination of a fixed deadline to write fifty thousand words and the desperate need to finish my novel meant that I finally got to the Shitty First Draft that Anne Lammott talks about so eloquently in ‘Bird by Bird - Instructions on Writing and Life’.
To finally get to that first draft, and to hold the printed pages in my hand felt like a real achievement, especially as I have been working on the novel for at least the last six years.
For the last few months I have been engaged in the slow and painful process of editing and structuring well over one hundred and forty thousand words. At my current rate of progress it is going to take me at least another twelve months before I get to the second draft. Accepting this has been hard. My natural inclination is to sprint to the finish line on any project I work on. This constant rush is at odds with my need to accept that the editing process needs to be slow and steady to help ideas clarify and settle. Some of the work I produced for Camp NaNoWriMo in July took the book in directions I hadn’t planned and I need to get comfortable with how the narrative and the characters have diverged from my original plan for the book. If I rush the editing I fear that I might miss something really important.
I had originally planned to use November's NaNoWriMo as period for making significant progress on the editing but I can see that this will not work and the novel will be worse off if I do. Half the fun of these novel writing months is the madness and joy of making stuff up, exploring new ideas, creating new characters and not really caring whether the writing is any good. So, I’ve decided to be put the novel aside for a while and focus on having some writing fun for four weeks. The plan is to produce a collection of loosely linked short stories to achieve the target of fifty thousand words and have a bloody good time doing it.