Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eight thoughts on Nanowrimo, 2011

I've been doing Nanowrimo for three years now, and although that's not exactly the longest time in the world, I think I can safely say that I'm pretty well aware of my own patterns over the course of November.

For one, I always begin the month with a fabulous, ambitious, glowing idea of what it is I'm going to accomplish. I have dreams, hopes, aspirations! I imagine myself churning out the most amazing novel that's ever been written. I imagine writing a brilliant novel that is not only enjoyable to read but intellectually stimulating as well; my own personal treatise, arguing for whatever it is that has caught me up this year.

By the end of the month I'm sitting bleary-eyed before my computer screen, making up random collections of words in order to claim that final prize - the little purple bar above my username that proclaims WINNER! Gone are the dreams of literary brilliance, of masterful thematic exploration and in-depth analysis of modern society. Instead, I just want to quietly hobble over the finish line and sit in the corner mumbling softly to myself, massaging the fingers that are still sore from typing those last 10 000 words.

And yet I return year after year. I'm not going to spend time wondering why I do this - I guess it's just who I am.

But I do want to spend a few moments pondering what it is I've learned from this year's Nanowrimo experience. So here it is, a brief look at some of the things I've learnt about myself and about writing in general, all in one month:

1.) Writing historical fiction, even if it's only short snippets in the midst of a contemporary novel, is impossible without at least some sort of in-depth research.
2.) There are only a finite number of love-plots available to writers.
3.) Love triangles suck. They're a pain to write and dull to read. Especially when you have to think up fifteen different love triangles which all, more or less, end in the same way.

4.) You can't write a novel exploring the evolution of the concept of 'love' in Western society without someone calling you a cynic.
5.) Sometimes, finishing is enough.

6.) The moment you finish your novel, you will immediately want to write another. No matter what hour of the morning it is, or how long you've been up trying to get those last 1 000 words down. 

7.) Every novel is significant, once it's been written.
8.) Some things can be solved by a nice cup of hot tea and a quick nap.

And there you have it. Nano was always supposed to be for 'me', and it was supposed to be fun, a form of 'guilty pleasure' writing, like my own personal bar of November chocolate. But I think I'm going to try and snap out of that a little bit. I think Nano has helped me tackle my demons when it comes to finishing a novel, no matter how bad I think it is. Now it's time to tackle a new demon: editing. I've never really been good at going over my novels and actually pulling apart the draft and editing it. Generally my policy is to just re-write the whole thing. So I think it's time to try a new approach, editing a raw draft, and actually seeing what I can make of it.
So here's to editing the crap out of December!

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