In keeping with the Nanowrimo theme this week, I’m going to ramble on for a while about it, too. Of course, my perspective is a tad… different, not least because I don’t do Nano, and will probably never do it.
Mostly because the main purpose of Nano is something I’m already doing – trying to sneak in writing whenever I can (let’s not mention the large quantities of failing caused by narcolepsy, diabetes, kitten, full time job, and the various interactions between all these factors that leave me with rather less focusable time than I’d like).
Outside all the publicity and enthusiasm and the tendency of people to work harder at something when they have a commitment (particularly one made publicly) what I see as the basic point of Nano is that if you can manage to write a modest amount every day, it adds up remarkably quickly. Fifteen hundred words a day over thirty days works out to 45 k words – not quite a novel, but a solid kind of start on one.
The basic guidelines don’t change:
- Park butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, and write.
- Resist the temptation to fix, edit, or throw it away.
- Resist the temptation to reread yesterday’s wordage before you start.
- Minimize distractions (or ignore them).
- It doesn’t have to be great. It does have to be finished (especially when you’re looking at a raw first draft – although if we’re talking the first half of a raw first draft, you keep going until it is finished).
That’s all there is to Nano and writing in general.
Of course, writing something someone else is going to want to pay money for is a different beast, but mostly in terms of polish and cleanup (we won’t go into the partly-finished novel I have where I need several days of focused concentration to sort out the timelines because it’s so far off the rails it left left field behind a long way back and has tied itself into knots that I have to tease out before I can go forward. This is what happens when a pantser writes in disjointed bits and pieces – also known as gets interrupted by life being a major bitch). How you handle that part is a personal thing, but I find I need to be able to concentrate and focus much more in edit-mode than in writing mode.
The other side of this is the ten-thousand hour theory: you don’t get seriously good at anything until you’ve invested around 10k hours in it (or, for writers, you can go with the alternative of a million bad words before you get to the good ones. That works out at about… a hundred words per hour, which really is pretty low. I usually get anything from five hundred per hour up, more – way more – if things are really going well. I think my record is in the order of 30k in a day.
In any case, the point of Nano is both to practice writing by doing it – actually writing something – which has the combined effects of building a writing habit (first hit is free, after that you have to steal time), getting your brain accustomed to the idea that butt in chair plus fingers on keyboard plus word processing open equals shut down the internal censor and let the wordage flow (you can clean up any overflow later), and bringing you closer to the point where you’ll be really good at it. Or if you’re already really good at it, it will help you stay that way and get better.
Unless, of course, you’re me and you know damn well that committing to something like this will just add stress and shut you down. Then you don’t Nano. Instead you commit yourself to writing something – anything – every day until you’re in a better place where you can do a Nano.