Friday, October 1, 2010

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2010

So I have this thing about first drafts.

I LOVE THEM.

I love brainstorming and outlining them. I love writing them. I wish I could write first drafts every single month of the year!!! They're so SHINY! So INSPIRING! So EXCITING!

The only problem being first drafts aren't perfect. They need revising. And revising takes a lot of effort, and isn't as much fun, and is really really HARD.

After a while, those first drafts really start to pile up.

Let's review.


Summer 2005:
I discover the existence of NaNoWriMo, and am inspired to push through to the end of a floundering draft and actually FINISH my very first full-length novel, On Journeys Bound.

NaNo 2005:
I discover that it is possible to write an entire first draft in a month, and complete my very first fantasy novel, The Rose Queen.

Spring/Summer 2006:
I wrestle with revisions of The Rose Queen, and manage to wring out a second draft. I also start Draft 2 of On Journeys Bound somewhere in there.

NaNo 2006:
I discover that it is possible to write 100k in a month, and complete Draft 1 of The Whale and the Tree.

Spring/Summer 2007:
Third draft of Rose Queen, more work on Journeys, and possibly a bit on Whale. 

NaNo 2007:
I discover that I have Very Big Ideas, and write only half of the 209k tome later to become Draft 1 of The Fire in the Glass.

Summer 2008:
Second draft of Whale.

NaNo 2008:
I don't really discover anything groundbreaking, but I do write over half of the 190k tome later to become Draft 1 of The Silver Crane.

Summer 2009:
Attempt at revising Fire. More revision on Whale. Queries sent out. A pitiful attempt at another revision of Rose Queen. A bit done on Journeys. First draft of a not-all-that-short-story (18k), Seraphine.

NaNo 2009:
I discover that sometimes my ideas are not as great as I thought, and write 40k of the as-yet-unfinished The Last Garden, and 50k of the as-yet-unfinished The Blind King, which is a sequel to On Journeys Bound.

Spring 2010:
First draft of Seer, completed early March. Revisions commencing a few weeks later. Much procrastination.

Summer/Fall 2010:
Still floundering in revisions for Seer, poking at Journeys 'cause it won't leave me alone.

Which brings me to some Stats:

Completed first drafts—6
Completed revisions—2, (but they're not REALLY completed—both Rose Queen and Whale need re-drafting. Again.)
Revisions in progress—2 (though Journeys is more a rewrite than a revision)
Incomplete drafts—2
Unrevised novels—2

All that to say, and the data is pretty clear—I have yet to successfully figure out HOW TO REVISE. Or at least how to FINISH a revision. Kind of frustrating.

Which leads me to my point (I do actually have one):
I don't think I have any business starting a Brand New Novel for NaNo when I have SO many more projects to work on that I feel are more important to furthering the Hope of being able to hop back on the submission wagon again sometime this century. I know I can write a book in a month—it's super fun and I adore doing it, but I need to prove to myself that I can FINISH a revision, not just a first draft, which leads me to the conclusion that I should sit out NaNoWriMo this year. :-( :-( :-( :-(

HOWEVER.

If I finish my second draft of Seer by the end of October, I have decided to issue myself the following challenge (reward??) :

To write the second half of On Journeys Bound AND the second half of The Blind King during the month of November, thereby joining the frenzy that is NaNo (albeit as a self-declared rebel), and finishing two projects I've been meaning to get to for YEARS.

And those are my long, rambling, and conflicting thoughts on participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

9 comments:

Anne M Leone said...

Interesting to hear you talk about this. For the first time since I've heard of Nano, I have a November where doing it would actually really work for me. But I've been thinking about your Nano experience last year, and others (Maggie Stiefvater's, for instance) and wondering if maybe Nano wouldn't work for me. Maybe I need more time to think when I'm drafting so I can create a solid draft? Perhaps Nano is great for generating ideas and freeing up inhibitions, but not so great for actually producing publishable work? Anyways, interesting to hear that you're reconsidering it. Maybe there needs to be a NaNoREVISINGMo. NanoReMo or something. =)

Nathanael Gassett said...

While I don't have half as many first drafts, and zero complete revisions, I feel ya. I want to do NaNo for the sheer joy of it! But at the same time, it's like I already have four kids and don't really know if I should have another right now. I think you can definitely finish revisions by October and REWARD yourself with 30 days of creative escapades. It'll do your mind good to rest from revisions and start on something completely different.

Joanna R. Smith said...

Anne, it can't hurt to try! I've REALLY enjoyed my previous NaNos, and although the drafts need work, I do think there's publishable novels in them. My problem, I think, is being able to STICK WITH THEM all through the revision process without throwing in the towel, and also possibly the inevitable fact that revising simply takes a lot longer than first drafting and is so much HARDER. But you really should try it if you've got the time and inspiration—it's a really exhilarating experience!!

Nathanael, that's it exactly!! And I hooooope I can finish my revision in time!

emilydreams said...

Hello, I found your blog via the Blueboards. :) Just wanted to say, this post really echoed with me and I was thinking about it all weekend. I too have loads of unfinished novels lying around, and yet here I am planning a new one for NaNo. Perhaps what's needed is for me, too, to challenge myself to finish [x revision/x draft] before November ...

Thanx for a thought-provoking post. :)

Joanna R. Smith said...

Thanks for stopping by, Emily! :-) It's nice to hear that someone else is suffering from too-many-first-drafts syndrome!! Good luck with finishing a revision if you decide to do that, and lots of luck with NaNo, too!!

Gwen said...

I sympathize wholeheartedly. This will be my 4th nanowrimo and from the previous 3 years I still only have 3 first drafts. (Well, my very first nano is actually close to being fully revised, but not quite there yet and the other two are FAR FAR FAR from finished revisions.)

I too have a hard time with revision, though I have to say that there are times when I love it. When it comes to revising short stories I never seem to have any trouble, but getting through my novels always seems so daunting I find it difficult to even start. I have found an online course about novel revision that I really want to take (because I'm willing to admit I need help, and the woman who runs the course is very matter of fact and cut to the chase about what needs to be done) but I haven't had the time recently.

My current challenge to myself is to finish the novel I am currently writing BEFORE nano and then write a novel that I've been too cowardly to write (because I actually have an editor/publisher interested in it based on it's original short story rendition, and I have sadly allowed that to make me freeze up) during nano. If I succeed in that, I will reward myself with the revision course that I want to take during December or January.

The course actually has me looking forward to rewriting/revising my novels and I'm hoping that it's as good as I expect it to be. Generally I would never look twice at a course about writing because I find them to always be subjective and preachy and never anything remotely useful. And, I generally don't think other people can tell you much about your own writing (with definite but rare exceptions). But, this course smacks of something different, and I am hopeful.

So, I just thought I'd share that. If you're at all interested in the course you can find more information about it here: http://howtoreviseyournovel.com/

I have to admit the website is hideous and some of her sales tactics are well... blunt (and her opening lines are unfortunately condescending). But, I've been getting her free online writing tips for about 6 months now and I have to say I have never once wanted to slap her through cyberspace and indeed, I have found a couple of her tips extremely practical and helpful.

And, yuck, now I'm plugging someone I don't know, to another person I don't know on the internet and I think I just died a little inside. But so be it. I thought it might help. (Slinks away to lick wounded pride.)

Joanna R. Smith said...

Gwen, thanks for your thoughtful comment and commiseration!! Both are much appreciated. :-)

The novel revision course you linked to looks VERY good (and intense, wow). I've read a number of articles by Holly Lisle before and always find her extremely insightful.

I think part of what frustrates me about revision is that I CAN'T rush through it the way I blaze through first drafts. It's a completely different process that I'm still learning to perfect. I did a lot of the identifying weak scenes and strong scenes, problem spots and missing elements that Holly talks about in the revision course—I made myself a thorough outline, complete with checklist, and it's proving invaluable, but I still find the actual execution of the changes (or complete rewrites) I decided on just plain HARD. But I think it's going well. Maybe.

Anyways, good luck with finishing your novel and with the revision course, and thanks again for your comment and commiseration!!!

Gwen said...

Sorry it has taken me so very long to respond.

I just read your most recent post about your revision, congratulations! I'm sincerely excited for you and more than a tiny bit jealous. :-)

It seems that you have a much more solid grasp of revision than I do, especially now that you're done. I am still very much lost by anything more involved than removing awkward phrasing or unnecessary scenes.

Still, the best way to learn is by doing, so I will be giving it my best shot as soon as November is over.

Congrats again! Your success is inspiring. Looking forward to seeing your work in print in the not too distant future.

Joanna R. Smith said...

Thanks, Gwen! Still waiting to hear back from the intrepid souls who agreed to read it for me, and then I'll find out how successful the revision actually was! :-)

Writing and revising is SUCH a strange and difficult process, and I think you're right—the best way to learn is by doing. And doing. And doing.

BEST OF LUCK with your novels and revisions! YOU CAN DO IT!!!