As you probably already know, it’s November, which means, if you’re a writer and you probably are if you’re reading this, then you should be around 35,000 words into your NaNoWriMo novel. And if you’re not… well.
Then you’re in good company!
As you can see, I’m a bit behind at the moment, but never fear. I’m a somewhat consistently bad NaNoWriMo participant. What I mean by this is that I usually slack off/alphabetize my bookshelves/catch up on 6 years worth of sitcoms on Netflix/etc. instead of working on my novel until about the last week. Traditionally, I write about 20-30k in the first three weeks. And then I write 15 to 20k in the last two days. -_-
I’m hoping to break with tradition this week, but only time/the frequency with which my youtube subscriptions pile up will tell.
So for those of you also participating in National Novel Writing Month, I extend to you my deepest apologies for your families, and my sincerest hopes that you survive the month and have a less than craptastic novel to show for it afterward. We aren’t all so lucky.
Personally, my novel is coming along rather nicely, but some other writerly friends of mine are struggling at the moment. The question of time vs. perfection, a typical NaNoWriMo debate, came up this morning and I awkwardly stumbled upon a metaphor for writing that I thought I’d share.
Writing a first draft is like interviewing witnesses of a brutal murder.
I promise this makes sense so stick with me!
Okay, imagine you’re a journalist and you’re talking with 10 witnesses just beyond the line of neon crime scene tape, a mangled body reeking in the distance. Of all the people you interview, perhaps two or three of them really saw something. But of course they didn’t all witness the same things, each noting the chain of events from their own perspective, location, and damaged mind frame. Between these two or three people you can get a very good sense of what actually happened between the victim and the assailant.
Now if you could stop your interviews here, you would be well off, but when you first look at your 10 potential witnesses, you have no way of knowing who’s who. So you continue the interviews. The next two people give you completely conflicting stories. The he said, she said of it all doesn’t make any sense. But there are a few more witnesses left to interview and one way or another you’ve got to finish this piece or your boss/the editor is going to have your head. So you have a chat with the last few people gawking over the yellow line, making faces at the police. They turn out to be attention/camera whores. No real information to be had from them, but they’re good for a momentary laugh.
At the end of the day, you sit down with your collection of facts/theories that you managed to wrangle from the police, and a stack of interviews or transcripts of what the “witnesses” had to say about what happened. In order to make this into an article that will move people, while informing them, and entertaining them, you have to weave all these bits and pieces together. Some of what you found out is irrelevant, so you cut it. Some is unreliable, so you cut it, and some of it just isn’t interesting or has been said before.
But the point is, in order to make a good article, or even a good book. You have to have all the facts, the theories and the crazies on paper before you can really begin. See where I’m going with this?
A book isn’t written in it’s first draft. It’s created, brought out in pages upon pages of clerical mishaps, setting mistakes, unreliable characters and broken chunks of story. It’s what you do once you’ve got everything on the pages in front of you that matters.
I wish you all good luck in this coming week of NaNoWriMo. May your inner editors be gagged, and may your fingers be swift. Remember, we can edit in December.