I got to the point in essay writing today where the only way forward was tea. So, I went downstairs, and I made tea. And then I got so distracted making a colour-coded revision timetable for my mock exams in two weeks’ time that I completely forgot about it, and it was almost cold by the time I drank it. Not good.
Am I going to talk about tea? No. I’ve already done a blog post on tea recently and although I may possibly be slightly converted there’s no way I’m going to wax poetic about it. Sorry, tea lovers.
I’m going to talk about writing.
(Nothing new there, then.)
More specifically, NaNoWriMo, and why I stopped early this year.
First of all, my NaNo history. Last year, I finished 50k in the first week, so went on to write the same again the following two weeks, and almost as much the third. This year, I also finished 50k in the week, but stopped writing completely after around 68k. Did I run out of ideas? Well, partly, but the truth was I didn’t feel writing another first draft was what I needed right then.
I stopped because I’ve written several crappy novels this year. In July I did Camp NaNoWriMo and finished a first draft of my novel Destroying. In August I did it again and finished a draft of Returning. During the first week of NaNo this November, I wrote The Quiet Ones. None of these have been edited, and all of them need it, particularly the last. I think that instead of pressing on for longer, I need to begin editing and rewriting. For me, that’s the hardest bit of this whole novel lark, but I think I can do it. Well, I know I can do it. And so, I shall.
However, for some people typing isn’t as easy as I find it and they’re still plodding away. Or other commitments caught up with them, or they lost the plot after a chapter or two, or their computer took it upon itself to destroy their work so far and leave them panting far behind everyone else. Sound familiar? Good, you might like to read on.
With NaNoWriMo, the whole point is to keep going. To take the backspace key of your keyboard, and not to delete anything. To leave in the typos and the fourth-wall breakages for later amusement, and to keep pounding out the crappy sentences that may one day become your novel.
A lot of people say that this is why there’s no point to NaNoWriMo, why if you want to be a real author you shouldn’t do it. They’ll use this as an excuse to tell you off when you’re writing in lessons and they’ll make sure you realise that real life is more important. Don’t listen to them!
Look, someone said ages ago that the first draft of anything is crap. John Green, in one of his videos, said that although he knew you couldn’t write a good first draft in a month, you couldn’t write a good first draft in any length of time. Some people are editors-as-they-go, but I am not. And you might not be either.
And that’s why the only way forward is forward.
Take off that backspace key. (Maybe not physically. When writing that someone is ironing his shirt, don’t miss out letters. The same goes for other phrases.)
Turn on your writing playlist. Haven’t got one? Follow me on Twitter, and I’ll link you to one of mine. I use Grooveshark, so they’re free to listen to, completely legal, and I’ve spent a lot of time putting them together. Turn it up really loudly and get in the mood.
Write like you’ve only got twenty minutes to hit your goal. I always write fastest when I’ve got a deadline and this will help you.
Forget about the editing.
Next month, when you’re feeling fat from Christmas and you’re trying to think of an excuse to get out of awkward conversations with relatives you haven’t seen in months, say that you’re editing your novel. “Oooh,” they’ll coo, impressed. “And what’s it about?”
“Well, it’s about a man who wakes up inside the moon and has to eat his way out. Because everyone knows the moon’s made of cheese.”
Never mind that your novel is actually about the struggles of a twelve-year-old girl to be accepted as an Olympic hopeful: quoting Wallace and Gromit will force them to go off and reminisce about all the things they watched on previous Christmas Days, and you can sneak off to edit. Woop!
An hour in, you’ll be bored, probably. You’ll be hating your own prose. So, cut bits out, delete sentences. But don’t delete them completely. Save this as a new document and don’t let yourself delete the old one until you’re certain you like the changes. In fact, never delete the old one, just in case you screw this one up completely. Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a scone (rhymes with ‘phone’), and start writing again.
I’ve just been informed by the Blog Elves that scones aren’t Christmassy. And who says? Make scones.
Fine, then, gingerbread off the tree. Candy Canes. Sugar Plum Fairies – wait, no, you get sent to prison for eating fairies. Or possibly for the possession of the drugs that made you think they were there in the first place. Sugar Plums, maybe.
And edit your novel.
But whatever you do, dear readers, whatever you do, do not edit now. NaNoWriMo is about pushing forward, with the cup of tea on your desk steaming and promising you a little boost at the end of that one thousand words, if only you get there before ten o’clock. (I wrote about tea! Sorry.)
Do not look back.
Your novel is a pyschopathic killer: keep running and don’t look back until you’re at the end and you’re safe. Someone on the forums told me that, and it’s the perfect way to sum up this post.
Do not look back.
The only way forward is forward.