Thursday, December 22, 2005
NaNoWriMo: thoughts on a failed (?) experiment
November has come and gone, and just under 10,000 people crossed the finish line to become champions of mercurial novel-writing. 2005 had its winners, and I am sad to say that I am not one of them.
And yet this experiment in writing at breakneck speed was not without its fruits. In nine sessions of writing, I was able to complete more than 15,000 words. That is by far the most text I have ever produced in such a short time. The obvious question, was any of it any good?
Laughably, my first inclination is to say no. I went back after a few weeks and read over some of the bits that I wrote and I am sad to say there are no glimmering shards of greatness hidden within less interesting passages. My main impression in reading over what I had written was that of "why did I bother writing that? This isn't important to the story I was trying to tell..."
And that's the most significant thing I learned while writing furiously for my NaNo project. It's very, very hard to figure out what needs to be written and what can simply be left out of any particular story. That's the job of the editor. But here's the thing: you have to have text in order to edit it.
That's where NaNo comes in. In order to develop my skills as a writer (and to work out a story in particular), I needed to just turn on the fountain of words and begin to shape what emerged. I started my story in three or four places, never quite being sure where the best place was. Then, even with each scene, I found myself skipping around, trying to find a place where it ought best to begin. There is simply no way to work through this without the labor of creating text.
That, friends, is the beauty of NaNo. You have no other choice but to keep writing, stringing sentences together, dropping scenes and picking up other ones, moving along until you find traction. The more I wrote, the easier it became to find starting places.
As I continue to sculpt my skills as a writer, watching and shaping what emerges, I count NaNo a successful experiment and a lesson learned on my path toward writing.