Friday, November 22, 2019

Finished NaNoWriMo? You're Just Getting Started...

This is my last post about NaNoWriMo, I promise. November is almost over and I don’t have another
spot till December. 

I’m over the achievement porn of “these great novels were written in days!” I’m not saying anybody
is lying, but it is counterproductive (bordering on abusive) to shame writers by holding up stories of
extreme outliers like they’re the norm.  

My beloved writing mentor Joyce Sweeney, who was publishing books while I was playing with
Rainbow Brite, gave me an average of ten years from idea to publication for most of us. So…
where do the other nine years and eleven months go?

Don’t get me wrong. I completely believe these first drafts could have been written in days (although
I don’t know anyone who can take 2.5 days to not eat/sleep/go to work/etc and just write, whose
family doesn’t put them in a padded cell) but there’s no way any were a query-ready draft.  

You an absolutely write a strong outline or first draft in a month… if you have a solid story idea and
a decent handle on the craft of writing. Ransom Riggs once had a first draft of his first novel ever.
So did the lady in your SCBWI workshop who keeps screeching about the Illuminati and colony
collapse disorder.*

Nothing on the left can go into an engagement ring. Whether the stone on the right should... But you get the point.

But if you query your NaNoWriMo “finished product” come December 1, you’re going to wind up in
the 99.99999%. Not as in Occupy Your Hometown, but as in “the steaming hot mess of garbage
manuscripts flooding agents’ inboxes that will never even get read.” 

When everyone and their mother wants to be an author, and believes they can write the next The
Cat in The Hat on their iphone on their bathroom break, what we writers do is devalued. 

You need to rise above the sewage of the slush pile and show the agent your manuscript is not
last week’s moldy coffee grounds that got stuck to the mushy tinned broccoli that was in the fridge
for six months. 

But first, you have to make that true. 

If I were going to follow the NaNoWriMo schedule strictly, I’d add another month for something the
kiddies (or software developers, whichever you prefer) call a “hardening sprint”.  I’d call it
NaNoRevMo (National Novel Revising Month).

 Basically, you’ve written the manuscript (built the code), but if you want to make sure Draft 1 isn’t
a steaming hot mess** you have some clean-up work to do. 

Your “bugs” (flaws in the software) are typos, flat character arcs, details that need to be re-ordered
- anything really. 

December is crazy if you’re an adult (the only thing more depressing than learning there is no Santa
is having to be Santa) so we should do this in January: a boring cold month where everybody’s
grouchy and nothing happens.

Don’t expect those RESOLVED and agent-gonna-snap-you-up-and-promote-you-at-auction ready
in a month.

But it’s a start. 


* True story. 

** And I promise you, it is. 

No comments: