Thursday, February 17, 2011


I’ve never done NaNoWriMo.  I know; I know.  Sacrilege.  Honestly, the thought of writing that many words without once going back to edit freaked me out.  I edit constantly, and cutting off that impulse seemed wrong.  I distrusted any organization that told me not to work my prose until it’s perfect.  I mean, I’m a writer, right?  I’m supposed to be a compulsive editor.

But, last weekend, I had the very great fortune to hear Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, speak at my local RWA meeting.*  After hearing his thoughts on writing and creativity, I have a whole new respect for the process of writing without editing-as-you-go.**  Mr. Baty put it somewhat as follows (I’m paraphrasing):  As writers, creating beautiful sentences is what we do.  Taking an ugly sentence and making it shine is satisfying.  It’s doable.  It feels like progress.  And sometimes, it’s a lot easier than putting down a whole new sentence that moves the story forward.  In other words, editing is crucial, but it can also be an indulgence, a form of procrastination.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop editing-as-I-go—that’s just not the way my brain works—but it might be a good exercise for me to focus more on moving forward while I’m working on the draft of Book # 2.  Since I already missed November (I was, ironically, revising Book #1), I’m going to have my very own Novel Writing Month.  MyNoWriMo.***  Since I'm a wimp, I’m not starting from scratch the way the true WriMos do, and I’m going to set my word count and time goals a little more conservatively.  Say, 1200 words a day for the next forty-five days.  I’ll even track my progress and do some stats at the end of it.  Hey, if it works, maybe I’ll do NaNo for real next time.  

*Chris was giving a talk with author Rachael Herron, one of the stars of our RWA chapter.  Check out her post on the talk here.  Her first novel was a NaNo project, and it’s great!

**He had nice things to say about RWA, too. 

***This is also inspired by Feliza David, who suggested that we need an acronym for “writing like it’s NaNoWriMo even when it isn’t November.” I concur.


  1. I wrote my first draft completely unedited. Or almost. I GUESS that was a good thing, since I'm throwing a ton of it out, and I'm pretty sure it's a lot easier to throw out bad words than somewhat-edited words.

    And I'm not throwing it out because it's bad, but because the plot isn't quite how I have it now. I think that happens a lot in the re-draft. So yes. Don't waste your time! Good luck.

  2. Yes! That was exactly their point. You're going to end up throwing stuff out as you work out the plot, and it's MUCH harder to throw out the things you made beautiful. Rachael Herron has this great concept of promising yourself you'll use everything in your cutfile later, to trick yourself into cutting it. Makes it easier. But still, why spend time making something gorgeous when you may have to get rid of it for plot reasons?

  3. Gasp. Oh man, Chris Baty totally has my number here. Editing really can be a form of procrastination, at least for me. It's so much easier to worry about the diction in a sentence that will probably be cut than to plow ahead and slog through a difficult plot point in a manuscript.

    And it's way, way easier for me to let myself be paralyzed with self-doubt, then to make myself be brave and keep writing.

    Oh, and thanks for the shout out. I like MyNoWriMo way better than WriLiItNov... Umm, you know what I mean.

  4. Ahem.

    "...than to make myself be brave and keep writing."

    I blame my fatigue from editing. :)

  5. I know! He was talking, and I was thinking, "How did you know?!" I'd really never thought of editing that way.

    (Also, I didn't even notice that typo.)