Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNo Days 19-21 and a Realisation

What a lovely week-end! Warm, sunny weather. Spending the days lazing in the garden with the kids. Reading Mira Lynn Kelly's Wild Fling or Wedding Ring. Getting nine hours sleep a night.

The only thing that didn't happen was writing. Of any kind. My laptop didn't even get switched on until Sunday night. So my word counts are now so drastically behind that the chances of me winning at NaNo are disappearing into the distance. And I'm okay with that.

I've stopped beating myself up over it. I've realised that my circumstances this year are a little different from last year. Last year I hadn't just moved house, my kids weren't as unsettled, I didn't have to deal with the loss of any pets, let alone two (don't ask!) and last year, before I started NaNo, I'd had a delightful holiday in Greece, so I was well-rested and relaxed.

But the biggest realisation I had this week-end came courtesy of the amazing Bob Mayer. Yesterday I re-read the notes I took in his Warrior Writer course. He talks about understanding the WHY of everything you do. Why are you writing this novel?

Last year's WHY was simple: I wanted to finish the novel I'd entered into the Presents 2009 contest in case I got a request for more. I succeeded; I finished a draft. And though that story didn't get a request, the opening chapter (which I'd finessed before NaNo even started) won the interest of an editor. Thank heavens she didn't ask for more because looking back that first draft was truly awful. I might have made the NaNo word count, but a lot of it is unusable.

This year's WHY is a little different. A word count isn't enough. I want to send a partial and synopsis to the editor who requested more of my work. I need to have the draft complete before I send. But it is also far more important to me that this partial be polished to a high sheen, and that the story as a whole works. After a year of indifferent responses, I need a positive response from the editor, so I want this book to grab her attention. And that is not going to happen with the kind of rough writing that I achieve through NaNoWriMo. I'm not saying that Nano's not for me, I'm just saying that NaNo is not for me this year.

I'm not officially giving up. I'm going to keep up the routine I've established this month, but I'm going to spend a little more time crafting what I write. Even though I won't be proudly boasting a NaNo winner's badge this year, I'm hoping that before the year is done I'll have a completed draft that I'm happy with. And my win will be a submission I can hit send on with a smidgeon of hope that it'll achieve what I want.

Jenni Holbrook-Talty has written this on Bob Mayer's Write it Forward blog. Thanks Jenni for putting my feelings into words.

But with every good news thing in writing, there is a bad news thing attached. The good news is, you’ve got a draft. The bad news: Is the writing the ugly raw writing? Or something else? It’s the something else that worries me when a writer is solely focused on word-count. Its tunnel vision. Yes, we have to write through things and get to the end, but we also have to make sure we’re moving toward something. Words for the sake of words doesn’t create a page turning novel. Having written a book during NaNoWriMo I can tell you fixing bad story telling is harder than fixing up the words on the page and making the story and characters stronger.

Some of the best writing I have ever done has come from slowing down, taking a step back, taking a deep breath and looking at where the story has been, where it is now, and where it is going.

In some ways I wish NaNo was every month. I love watching writers post their goals and their progress. I love the energy it creates. I hope everyone who is participating feels good about their successes, even if they didn’t complete the word count. Keep writing. Keep pushing yourself.


  1. The important thing is to keep writing and keep moving forward. Word count is only part of the process.

  2. Glad you found Warrior Writer worthwhile. The goal is to help writers become authors, a difficult, but achievable process. Understanding why, always improves execution.

  3. Wonderfully eloquent, Romy.

    And absolutely spot on. Nano isn't for you this year, but who knows what next year will bring. I'm looking forward to reading your new story because it sounds fab.

  4. Fantastic post Romy!

    I can certainly see the positives of Nano, but having a polished partial and a great story are equally important goals :)

    So... when will you sub?? :)

  5. Jenni and Bob - thank you so much for visiting my blog. I'm truly honoured! [PS: Did I mention I'm a big fan?]

    Leah - I'm aiming now to have Ionian Sun finished by the end of the year so I can sub the partial in January. How is yours coming along post-New Voices?