Lesson from Friend, all the way from October 5, 2004
Do you remember when you were in grade school, and you had to make finger paint art, or macaroni art, or put together something out of clay? Do you remember how proud you were to give it to your parents, and how much more proud you were when it was given a prominent hanging space on the refrigerator door?
You’re going to close your eyes, shut off the logical part of your brain that says, ‘This sucks!’ and just write your fool head off. You are going to create art — and you are going to like it. Moreover, someone else out there will like it. They will say, ‘Wow, you did that?’
Why? Because to people who haven’t done it themselves, fifty thousand words is a huge number for them. So it will be impressive even before they open the cover. You don’t even have to show them. You can just answer the question, “What’s it about?” and gloss over the fact that you misspelled ‘refrigerator’ in Chapter Seven.
If they do read it, and they do find the misspelling (and oh boy there will be a lot of them, unless you religiously run your spellchecker before shutting down your word processor), you can say, “Oh, thanks! I haven’t edited the thing yet, that’s helpful.”
Kathy Coleman, of the Tai-Pan Project, I believe, was the one that told me that if your story is good enough, the mistakes matter less and less. Proof positive was the 17,800 word story I’d written, where there were more edits in the front half than the back half.
Write for November. Save your editing for December. Or better yet, January. You have all the time in the world to edit, revise, and clean up… but only November to write.
Q: So… like, you don’t revise at all?
A: Okay, I lied. I do revise a little bit. I go back within a day’s work and …get ready for it… ADD bits in order to flesh out a weak bit of the story. If I think a section of story is a little light on the description or emotion, I’ll re-examine what’s going on there, who the speaker is, and where they are in the story and then embellish on them a little bit more. It adds detail — and it adds to my word count. That’s what you call a win-win situation. I also correct spelling mistakes if they jump out and hit me over the head.
However– I NEVER throw out a part once it’s been written. I never trash a scene completely; you can kill scenes after November 30th, but if you just spent a day writing, KEEP IT. It’s word count. It’s stuff that makes up part of your story, or you wouldn’t have written it. It made sense when you first typed it out. And it builds characters.
Greg Connor , who also finished the NaNo with me last year, wrote scenes in non-chronological order. He’d set up an outline of where he wanted to go, and on any given day, he’d hang a chapter number on the bit he wanted to write for the day, and go from there. Mind, he’d also write Chapter 7.5 — proof positive that you can revise into the middle, too. It’s your story. You can always go back and add scenes.
A part of the key of doing the NaNo is that you have to write to a deadline that’s so huge-looking that you don’t have time to second-guess yourself. Your mind starts filling in the blanks just ahead of the next line of text, because our minds are geared to solving puzzles and setting order to the universe.