Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework
***(For those who are unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, you can learn more about it here. Spoiler: it’s awesome.)***
Today I have the honor of welcoming Miriam Joy, who is here to share her experiences with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in hopes that it will inspire you all as you work through your own novels. I would elaborate, but I love her post so much that I’d rather it speak for itself.
NaNoWriMo changed my life.
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Before I participated in NaNo in 2009, I’d never written a novel. I’d never even finished anything of note. Writing was a vague dream, something I enjoyed and wanted to do but had no real expectation that I’d be able to make a life that way.
My NaNoWriMo journey began where many of my journeys and friendships did: Protagonize. A writers’ website I’d been a member of for just a few months, I’d already made several friends among the community, including Charley and Cathryn with whom I’m still pretty close. Around November time, everybody was talking about this thing called NaNo.
I didn’t know what it was, but it sounded interesting, and finally I got around to looking it up – on November 7th. Sitting at my desk in front of the window with the fireworks going off outside, I signed up for an experience that would alter everything.
I had no plot. No characters. No idea how to write a novel. But I started writing that day not because I wanted a novel – but because I wanted to prove I could. Because 50,000 words would be the evidence to all those people who said ‘You’ll never do it’ and ‘writing’s a waste of time’.
15 days later I turned around to those people and showed them the 50k manuscript. Ah, but I had more than that. I had a novel.
It was terrible! Filled with joke plot written to amuse the only four people who’d ever read it, self-insert characters and appalling clichéd dialogue, it will never see the light of day unless I take just a few elements of it and scrap the rest. Yet it was the start of something amazing. Before then, I’d never completed anything over 20k, and I’d never written a novel, and suddenly I’d discovered that actually, I could. This was something I could do.
So I did it again. I wrote another novel in December of that year. Another in March of 2010; another spanning April to May; two more for NaNoWriMo that winter. And a couple of them were salvageable and a couple of them were useless, but one thing was clear: each scrappy first draft that I wrote was slightly less scrappy than the last one, and actually, I was pretty good at this.
Many writers spend years on one book, and that’s not my style. I’m a child of National Novel Writing Month and I binge-write. I’ll spend a month editing, a month writing, a month off – rinse and repeat until finished. I don’t write slowly, with the exception of St Mallory’s Forever! (a collaborative novel with Charley Robson and Saffina Desforges that’s been in progress for well over a year). My technique is very much ‘get it all on paper, edit later’. But that works for me.
This year, I’m changing that slightly. I’m planning. I want a novel that is well-structured, where the only editing that happens will be to improve the writing itself because the plot isn’t flawed, where I know what’s happening and don’t fill gaps with filler chapters and wordpadding. I want a novel that’s good.
If I were still writing for the four people who read that first novel, it wouldn’t matter about the structure or the plot. But I’m not. There’s more to it than that these days.
Because, you see, writing is now my life. Writing is everything that I am and everything that I want to do. And without NaNoWriMo, I would never have written my first novel, so I have the Office of Letters and Light to thank for my skills and my obsession.
I’m a child of National Novel Writing Month, and they changed my life.