Hello, it’s me.
(Is anyone else basically playing this song endlessly over and over? [And does it make you want to drink like, a lot? Or is that just me? Oh, it is? Never mind.] Has it really been four years since her last album? Anyway, in short, I love Adele, and one of these days I’ll drink enough to try this at karaoke.)
Where was I? Oh, right. Write. Nanowrimo. You know, I wasn’t even thinking about signing up for it this year. I signed up last year, kind of on a whim (a stupid, ill-considered whim, if you must know) to spur myself to work on the sequel to The Unwanted (which for the moment I’m calling The Prophecy Boy. Yes, it’s changed. I decided The Flesh Trap sounded a little skeevy). Anyway, it didn’t work. I got about 8,000 words in and then stalled. I had better luck on that project when I was at the month-long writing residency in Vermont, and at the moment that manuscript stands at just under 45,000 words. Since that seemed to work well for me, I decided to try to follow the same sort of schedule for November as I work on a new novel—only it’s not the sequel to The Unwanted.
Here’s what I’m doing: I work on the Nanowrimo novel (tentatively titled While You Were Making Other Plans—yes, I pulled that pretty much out of thin air) in the morning, and The Prophecy Boy in the evening. “Two books at once? Is he crazy?” I hear you ask. Well, maybe. But, the two books are so dissimilar that so far I haven’t had a hard time switching gears between them. Mind you, I’ve also been mainly rereading and revising the first half of The Prophecy Boy so far, and then writing scenes as they occur to me, so most of my heavy-duty writing happens in the morning with While You Were Making. This is fairly typical for me. Also, I spend the afternoon doing freelance work (Hey! Need a graphic designer? An editor? My rates are totally reasonable and I have satisfied clients to prove it!) which helps create a separation between the two storylines.
Why did I decide to sign up for Nanowrimo, though? Mainly because I needed to kick myself in the rear. From August until now, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing, as I mentioned in a previous post. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that my productivity accelerates when I have a deadline. Even if it’s an arbitrary, non-consequence–based deadline like “write 50,000 words in a month.” Which is not really an unrealistic goal. It. Works out to about 1,700 words a day, and Margaret Atwood said in a Q&A that she tries to write three to five pages a day when she’s working on a project. If it’s good enough for her, well then, it’s certainly good enough for me.
And that’s not to say that all of the words will be the right ones. (Or that they’re in the right order, even.) It’s a first draft, and those are not meant to be neat, tidy, perfectly formed things. (Although I did read once about a notable but very slow writer who couldn’t begin a sentence until the previous one was just right. I haven’t been able to find the source of that statement, though, so I’m not sure it’s true.) As a result, particularly in this case, my first draft is going to have a lot of passages that will inevitably get left by the wayside: backstory, narrative threads that don’t move the story forward, descriptions that end up being character studies—things I need to know about the people I’m writing about, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know. It all needs to be written at some point for me to figure out what I’m doing. My drafts tend to be messy and somewhat scattershot. It’s when I got back and revise that they start to make sense on the second or third or tenth draft. (Yes, ten. Why not?)
I also know that whatever I produce by the end of November won’t be a complete draft, either. 50,000 words is not very long, and my previous novels (including the ones that live in the drawer that will never see the light of day never ever [seriously, ever]) have all clocked in north of 70,000 words. Maybe I’ll have more than 50,000 written by the end of the month, who knows? Maybe I’ll have less, but it’ll be more than I started with.
Oh, and if you want to follow along on Nanowrimo’s website, I’m over here.
*Oh, and for the record, I’ve never seen No, No, Nanette. But I have heard “Tea for Two.”