So yesterday marked the beginning of this year's NaNoWriMo event. Which brings the point of the mega-wordcount exercise up for discussion.
The point of NaNoWriMo (besides having a whale of time writing with abandon), if your ultimate goal is to publish, is not to write a novel in one month (despite what the website catchphrases would have you believe) but rather to write a draft.
Now, to some of you, that might seem like semantics, but it's an important distinction, I think. For two reasons:
First, to succeed at NaNoWriMo (or similar high-paced writing speed goals), you really need to accept the fact that your WIP is not going to be perfect. In all likelihood, your results will be the sort of prose you'll read later on, after you've edited or rewritten, and feel the urge to delete the original file from your computer completely. Or better yet, remove the contaminated harddrive and smash it to smithereens. And then torch the smithereens. And bury the ashes. At the North Pole.
The point of high-speed wordcount generation is simply to create a starting point. A virtual scaffolding. If you do not give yourself permission to let your writing stink at least a smidge, you will neither succeed nor have fun trying.
Second, when you're riding that high from typing those two heady words, "The End," don't let yourself get swept up in the intoxicating notion that you are done with your novel. That first draft is only the first step. Sure, you've given birth and naturally your book-baby is beautiful, but it's not ready to go out and find a job yet. You're going to want to nurture and shape it first.
I can't say enough about the importance of incubation and taking your time. If there is a single mistake that represents the most common downfall of a given project, it is rushing to the marketplace too soon.
So, NaNo or NaNo-No, get out there and churn out some brand-spanking new words, but recognize them for what they are: great raw material for the fabulous novel you will soon be polishing!
Those of you who have NaNo-ed before... what became of your previous projects? How many times did you edit your manuscript after the fact, and how much did they change along the way? And, those of you who are currently NaNo-ing, how's it going? Off with a bang? Or a whimper?
Myself, I wrote The Edge of Memory during NaNo '07 (well, most of it... I banged out 65K during NaNo and finished the draft in December). I let it sit for a month or so before I started editing and I edited it several times before it became the manuscript I submitted to my agent. I didn't get to play along with NaNo last year, but I'm hoping I'll have the chance this year (once I finish up this stinking 28-hour shift and get home to my beloved laptop. ;) ).