Thursday, December 2, 2010
Whew. That was close. 50,004 words written for http://www.nanawrimo.org/ before the deadline of November 30th. This is the National Novel Writing contest, where over 100,000 people worldwide spend 30 days writing as much as they can. Some works have become novels, and some authors have even been published, and not self-published, either.
I thought this year would be a breeze. Last year, I started three days after hearing about the contest. That's right. Less than 72 hours of prep time. And all I had was an idea: a diary written by a computer engineer who meets and dates a celebrity. I wrote 50,000 words well before the deadline, and in fact wrote close to 56,400 words by November 30, 2009.
This year, I decided to write the sequel. I had characters, personalities, histories, a storyline to build from. I also had an outline. This was going to be sooo easy. And I was sooo wrong.
I didn't write every day. We had problems on the Cassini spacecraft on day two. I had several performances the second weekend, which meant rehearsals the weekend before. At one point, I was almost 20,000 words behind. I ended up making up the time the last two weekends. Cramming to write was a new experience for me, since my college major was engineering. It turned out to be harder than physics.
I learned a few things this past month:
1) Read your first book before starting a sequel.
Duh, right? I hadn't worked on it for about a month, and I think the last time I'd read the entire manuscript was before the summer. You'd think I'd remember most of it, but I had to go back to it often to look up things such as names, events. I'm re-reading it now in preparation for editing it again, and to make a few corrections to the sequel.
2) Make and keep a character guidebook
Which would have saved me time to write, instead of searching through the manuscript. And THAT discouraged me a bit. "Gee, what I wrote last year was so much better!" I'd forgotten that I'd spent most of last year editing it. I was reading the current product, not what I'd written November 2009.
3) Having an outline doesn't mean you'll always know what to write.
I had pretty much every chapter/diary entry outlined: talk about this party, talk about that trip. But that was entirely too general. With all good writing, each scene needed a purpose: to move the storyline along. I hadn't thought that far ahead, which is another reason why I was cramming.
4) A little more action, a little less conversation.
I relied HEAVILY on dialogue for this draft. Maybe too much. In fact, not maybe: there IS too much conversation. But that can be fixed.
5) Editing, while discouraged during NaNoWriMo, actually helped me with my word count.
For example, I'd go back to an earlier chapter to read something, and realized that I'd left a thought half-explained. Something to fix! And I have a curious habit of typoing by running two words together likethis. Fix it and there's a new word!
So now that I've got this 50005 word draft, now what?
I put it aside and work on "November's Secret", which was my NaNoWriMo 2009 entry. I'd like to finish this draft by January to have a friend proofread it. Then I'll take another pass at editing, and start to look for an agent.