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.