This year, I have arranged my calendar around writing my novel first drafts during NaNoWriMo events and saving the months in between for revision, planning, or focusing on short stories or poetry.
But why do I participate in NaNoWriMo? Plenty of real authors have opinions about it one way or another. It’s quite a common thing to look down your nose at the idea — “You cannot rush art.”
With this mentality, a writer can spend YEARS on constructing the first draft, aching over every detail and finally submit the perfect manuscript to a publisher who may accept it, and it may do well. Yet, it seems like this is the same mentality that leads people to believe that once you get that one book out there your world rips open and all of a sudden you’ve become some glorious god on your literary throne, the storied legitimate writer. You quit your day job, you move from weird shut-in to eccentric genius status, you never go hungry again…
And while we all may want to believe that this happens and will happen to us. I’ve read a lot of articles and how to books and author biographies and probability says: this will not happen to us. But really, what artist is ever done? Who is ever content to rest on their laurels after putting out a single work? There’s no damn way I could.
The nature of art is ongoing. A pure form of communication that grows with a person. I had a ridiculous cumulative word count last year in my Scrivener files (read: not including my online or day job activity) and I hope to have more this year. And most of it will probably never see the light of day, it’s all practice, revision fodder — the raw stuff that will at some point lead to that brilliant final draft masterpiece (theoretically).
NaNoWriMo encourages this — more, it encourages good habits. It encourages you to set a word count goal and then carefully presses you to reach it. I use the month, the momentum to write a draft and let it go. I’m bad at this. I like to pick at things, to see how many ways I can rewrite something. But that behavior is not productive.
In the months between April, July and November I revise my drafts, I plot out sequels and short stories that further develop my characters and ideas. And through this process I’ve learned to set goals, to push myself to meet those goals and to let my first draft be just a rough draft.