I’ve Made My Decision

I’m not quitting.  I’m just making a tactical withdrawal.

I’ve decided, rather belatedly, not to do NaNoWriMo this year. It isn’t that I don’t want to do it; I’d love to complete the challenge for the third time in two years.  The problem is that my plan was unformed and near to useless.

My plan was to redraft the novel I wrote in Camp NaNoWriMo August.  I thought I could start the story over again with the changes I had made halfway through and only change the story writing style.

A warning to those who are similarly deluded: it’s useless.  That isn’t how you redraft a novel.

One problem is that NaNoWriMo is not for second drafts.  NaNoWriMo is designed so that people can sit down and write the novel they’ve always wanted– that doesn’t mean it will be any good.  The challenge is designed for people to start with an idea and end with a novel.  It is not designed for people to start with a novel and end with a better novel.

I thought that a second draft was a first draft, but better.  Perhaps I wasn’t altogether incorrect there, but a second draft is not meant to be written hurriedly and with a thirty-day deadline.  Neither is a second draft a first draft.

The point I’m gunning for is this: I don’t want another first draft.  I don’t want to define my writing career by the pile of unedited NaNoWriMo first drafts lying beside my desk.  I want to be able to produce a first draft and be able to polish it– I don’t want to finish each draft thinking, “Okay!  Where’s the idea for the next one?”. Five first drafts with promise do me no good if I cannot improve them.

Because what I am looking for is not to get it right the first time.  As someone very wise once said, novelists, unlike brain surgeons, don’t have to be perfect.  We get to mop up after a particularly messy incision, and our patient will be none the worse for it’s near-death encounter.  We can amputate a leg and stick it near the ear and everyone will agree that we did the right thing.

What I’d like to do is work hard on Fathoming Egression for a while.  I’m going to write down all the scenes on notecards and get the in the right order and cut or add, then I’ll reorganize the story itself.  Then I’ll go scene by scene and rewrite them separately to touch up writing style, narration and mood.  I’ll make them “true” as an author said in a set of writing tips I recently read.  Unfortunately, I cannot work as I wish to in the NaNoWriMo format.  I apologize to those who thought they could compete against me in word count this month, and to those who may have looked to me as a source of inspiration.  I’m working on my own stuff this month.  Sorry.

I’ll eventually post a scene or two for critiquing purposes, if you all would be so kind as to oblige me thus.  Thanks for understanding.

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  1. Hey, I give you props for deciding to, um, withdraw. It’s a tough call to make, but I think you’re probably right. What’s the use of having a hundred first drafts if you never feel you have the time or freedom to smooth out the rough edges and polish the thing up? I hope it works out for you 🙂

  2. Ah, a tactical withdrawal. OK, George Bush. Are you going to use enhanced interrogation techniques too? xD Yay for doublespeak!

    On a more Sirius note, good for you for deciding what works for you. There’s a lot of pressure on young writers to do NaNoWriMo…

    • That’s so true. Some people think that young kids ought to do NaNo as much as possible because they won’t stick with it otherwise. Some people, mostly published authors who deserve a good kick in the behind, say that “NaNoWriMo, though productive and appealing to novices and amateurs, is not for those who are serious about writing.” There’s a lot of weirdness around that program. I’m still going to do it, probably next year, but I want to edit this manuscript first.

    • I think both sides have good points. NaNo is good if you have time and don’t treat it as a typing test. Anyone can write 50,000 words in the month. The question is, are you improving your writing and taking this thing seriously?

      • And that’s the problem– I take it seriously enough, but the pressure of getting the words out and still making it legible is incredibly taxing. So I need to slow down.

  3. Charley R

     /  November 7, 2012

    N’aww. Sad to see you withdraw, but I think it’s for all the best of reasons. I’m NaNoing this year out of an OCD desire to keep up my winning streak, and because I”m dying to pound out something new. It’s a setting-out time for me, for the story I later intend to pay a lot of attention and love to, just as you want to with Fathoming Egression there.

    Looking forward to these new posts of yours! Maybe I’ll pick up a couple of tips for editing time myself.

  4. Well kudos to you for doing what you feel is best!

    HVF’s tips definitely do help, I agree. Keep it true to the scene, to the characters, and don’t give out info-dumps. I’m going to see if I can fish around for anymore authors to hand out some tips.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of them are as obliging as HVF was, but perhaps. If you get any, I want to see them.

      • I know. A lot of author’s are pretty big names, and it would take months to get a response, if I did get one, that is. But I’ll let you know if any author decides to be nice and answer my little questions.

  5. That makes sense. I love writing novels but don’t like re-writing them. As a result, my writing career pretty much is defined by a bunch of unedited first drafts… Each time I think “this novel I will polish up nicely”. And then I don’t.

    • Indeed. Editing is much harder to be motivated toward than writing from scratch, mostly because the story doesn’t seem to move as smoothly as before. Now you’re focusing on tiny things that don’t seem important– such as the writing style– and you can’t get caught up in the story as much.

  6. Mithrandir

     /  November 8, 2012

    I did (and completed) NaNoWriMo for two years in a row. I used it both years to unlock my “inner explorer.” NaNo really helped me unleash up my creativity and lock up my inner editor under the daunting deadline and word count goal. However, I’m not participating this year in NaNo. I decided that it’s not going to me anymore. I’ve got so many drafts running around screaming their heads off on my computer, there’s no way I can dare myself into writing a new novel. What I really need is patience and some time to go through my drafts and clean up all of the chaos, not put another first draft on the ever growing stack in my computer.
    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who’s not doing NaNo this year. XD

  7. Liam, I love your blog posts.
    (Just thought I’d get that out there, I’m supposed to be writing about the Bolsheviks right now :/)
    But Siriusly, I read this and it really made me feel better. If somebody like you can, eh, withdraw, then I definitely can’t. It may or may not make sense to you, but it does to me.
    Anyhoo, thanks xD

  8. I had to do NaNoWriMo last year, because I absolutely needed to have a first draft. That might not make any sense… Oh boy. Writing last year was chaotic, mostly because, until November, I accomplished absolutely nothing, and it was driving me nuts, and I guess I just needed to finish and do something and be happy with it. So I did it, and I wrote a novel (and finished it, unlike the year before last) and it was satisfying.

    Now I just need to edit it. Actually, I need to go make a sandwich for my brother before he drives me nuts.


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