Ever since November of 2016, I’ve had it in my heart to do NaNoWriMo. At first, I doubted my ability to write 50k in a month—but after soaring through both April and July Camp NaNos this year with over-achieved goals and even hitting 100k in July’s Camp, I grew more and more excited for this famed month of word counts, coffee, chocolate, and fellow writers all in it together with one goal: write a novel in thirty days.
But I believe there’s more to writing a novel than just hitting a fifty-thousand word count mark.
In fact, I believe if I participated in NaNoWriMo this year, it would more than prohibit my novel from reaching its full potential—at best, it would cost me frustrating rewrites, time and work wasted—and here are 3 reasons why.
1. My Novel Isn’t Yet Ready to be Written
Like, what does that even mean?
It means that the work put in before my novel is ready to be written isn’t completed yet. What goes in is what comes out—I didn’t do any plotting or structure when I wrote my first novel To the Death, and what came out of it? The worst thing I’ve ever written. The worst thing I’ve ever read. And that’s coming from someone who’s pretty darn self-conceited about their work. There was no plot, no structure, no character arc, no reason for the readers to keep turning the pages besides cliffhangers I threw in that didn’t make any sense. It was a sloppy, terrible first draft, all because I didn’t know how else to do it.
I understand that many authors do pants their novels, but you know what that requires? At best, multiple revisions and edits. A lot of time and work spent unnecessarily. Which is what I’m doing now with my current WIP—completely rewriting To the Death.
Making major adjustments in a finished manuscript of 100,000-plus words is far more painful than in a few dozen pages of outline notes.
Outline notes? What do you mean?
Super exciting, evil plotting and structuring stuff I’m doing to ensure I don’t end up with a terrible first draft—because no one has to!
2. I Don’t Have to End Up with a Terrible First Draft
Which is what I’d end up with if I didn’t do any work beforehand, and what To the Death turned out to be.
But I don’t have to end up with any more terrible first drafts. And neither does anyone else!
But wait! Aren’t all first drafts terrible? That’s why they’re called first drafts, right? They’re never the finished product?
True. Editing must be done whether the first draft is awful or not. But just because we’ve all ended up with some pretty awful first drafts doesn’t mean we have to continue to do so—and it’s not an excuse for laziness like it would be for me.
Doing the excitement-revving, success-ensuring work beforehand—outlining, plotting, structuring—saves me so much hair-pulling, gut-wrenching, 4 AM-wailing rewrites. (No, seriously. Taking one look at To the Death‘s chapter 2 at 4 AM my second day of editing the draft resulted in wailing at the top of my lungs in misery. The wail probably made its way into my family’s dreams and caused them horrific nightmares.)
So why is there so much encouragement about writing a terrible first draft? Isn’t it true that if you stop and edit along the way, you’ll never finish? Shouldn’t you just write until it’s finished, then go back and edit that big fat mess?
First of all, if you’ve disciplined yourself and did the work, you can trust your planning and yes, write like the wind and edit later knowing you won’t end up with crud. No need to edit every single thing along the way. Of course, there’s always the 50 page edit—in which we’re far enough in to see a big chunk behind us but not too far in that plot holes are a nightmare to be fixed—but if you’re writing all the way through, you can relax and know that even if you’re editing afterward, you still won’t end up with a big fat mess.
Plus, at the end of 30 days of hard work, I’d want to end up with something I’m proud of. Not an embarrassing, terrible first draft I desire to sentence to death via the delete button and that makes me wonder if I’m a terrible writer. I wanted to cry when I read the hunk of junk once known as Loyalty Book I: Brave Like a Warrior. *sinks to the floor in a mortified heap of despair*
3. I Want the Thrill and Enjoyment of Cranking Out that Organic Perfection to Last for More than Just Thirty Days
I wrote another terrible draft in July (thanks to the wrong kind of work beforehand), and my very favorite part of writing was the first few hours of the first day. At 4:30 AM, I wrote until I reached 3k a couple hours or so later, and it was the most exhilarating, exciting, breathtaking writing time of the entire month of July. It was so beautiful.
After that, it became a grind because of my massive goal and the deadline. I still loved it—writing, are you kidding me? Let’s go for another one of my 20k days, I’d never quit! But that free-flowing, exhilarating awesomeness had disappeared. It was still fun, but not as fun. It became more about word count than about how much enjoyment I was taking in writing my story. And I believe there’s so much more to a novel than just 50k.
With To the Death‘s rewrite (which is my current WIP, Warfare Book I), I want to take my time and enjoy writing the thing—not slave away for thirty days under pressure knowing I’m going to end up with something terrible because the prep work isn’t finished yet. Writing is an experience I love. It’s a gift God’s been so gracious to give me. I do it for fun, I do it for free (right now, anyway) —and if I’m not having fun, I’m doing something wrong.
I want to enjoy the process of writing it, and thirty days are going to pass by quick—even if my novel was ready in time.
So many people rush into NaNo and come out of it with a terrible first draft. That’s not going to be me—I’m going to put in the work and save myself frustrating, unnecessary rewrites. I’m going to take my time and not limit myself to 30 days of NaNo, so I can enjoy the beautiful experience of writing a first draft—which you only get once per book. And I’m going to write my novel to its full potential because of it.
Are you going to be doing NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not? I’d love to talk with you about it in the comments!
Psst. Warfare (previously known as Loyalty) outlining snippets coming up soon. >:)
P.S. Not trying to bash anyone over the head for doing NaNoWriMo at all! I love NaNo and really do hope to do it in November someday in addition to the camps. Everyone’s gotta do what they feel is best for their novel—I just wanted to explain why I’m not participating and hopefully bring these points to others’ attention so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. So if you feel bashed… stop it! 😉