Last day for NaNoWriMo!
Those who aren’t participating but living with someone who is are getting ready to sigh in relief. Participants who are ahead are similarly relieved. On schedule: mildly apprehensive perhaps, but also relieved. Other participants may be frantic or even depressed. Don’t worry about it.
Congratulations to all of those who accepted the NaNo challenge, as they say (or will) on the official site – you’re all winners!
I’d like to add a qualifier to that statement. Winning NaNoWriMo isn’t about word count. Sure, it’s great if you achieved that goal, as arbitrary as it is, but as I mentioned before – NaNo is about breaking bad habits and learning. If you learned from the experience, you won. That win is much bigger than consistently writing 1667 words a day. I hope everyone learned to write consistently, either a little each day or a minimum number of days each week. Focus on the story, save the editing for later. Pick a story and commit to it – if you have an idea for a book, there’s no time like the present to write it and don’t let other ideas distract you from writing the last chapter. (Just make a note of the other ideas for later.) Use the right words the first time, but don’t worry about polishing your prose until revisions.
I imagine most people didn’t finish their book, 50,000 words isn’t a novel by most standards. December is a busy month, and don’t worry if finishing stretches into January, or even February. When you finish, there’s a choice to be made. The accepted practice is the let that book sit awhile before you come back to it for revisions. You need time to step away from the plot, the characters, the twists, and the climax so when you read it again, you’re actually reading what you wrote not reliving the writing process. I firmly believe in this policy, almost.
When I write, I find plot holes and inconsistencies as I go. I don’t usually fix them, I mark them in the text and make a notation in my notepad to check and fix something. Maybe it’s something small, like a secondary character’s eye color changed or I might be inconsistent with the spelling of something. I’ll check my book bible/style guide later and fix it, things like that aren’t worth interrupting my flow to deal with. Maybe it’s something bigger, like I have a character driving somewhere, but upon reflection they neither have a car nor a license and they’re 15 so it’s obvious. Or someone could have just used their cell phone to fix a problem but I didn’t realize the obvious solution. Whatever it is, I don’t consider the story finished until I address the list of notes I make while writing it. And I do one revision after all of that for spelling and obvious grammar issues.
Why do a revision before I shelf a book and get distracted with something else? Because when I come back to it, I want to be able to see that book clearly for what it is. I know I get distracted by some spelling and grammar issues, and I don’t want my minor hang-ups to interfere with the revision process when I come back to the book. I know what pulls me out of a story, and I don’t want that to happen when I read mine for the first time since finishing it. If I get pulled away from the plot, it needs to be for something big, something that needs to be addressed (plot-wise) not because I wrote too fast and used the wrong ‘there’ or used ‘an’ instead of ‘a’ or other simple things. Polishing comes later. Hopefully that’s something everyone learned this month. If nothing else, remember that. Write first, polish later.