FYI: I posted this on my personal blog last week, but I figured it’s worth repeating, given the number of anti-NaNo articles that have flooded the internet lately, and given the number of LTWF readers that are participating in NaNo!
Sarah J. Maas
Okay, some of you might know that I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, and I’m not technically participating this year, but I AM in the midst of writing a top-secret new WIP. So while I don’t have a NaNo account, I’m totally mooching off the energy and enthusiasm that’s running rampant right now.
Last week on our LTWF Twitter account, we got a request to address all of the NaNo naysayers, which made me pause for a second—do all of the anti-NaNo posts actually discourage the NaNo participants that much?
Well, that kinda pisses me off. And by kinda, I mean a lot. Because in today’s world, I don’t see how anyone could discourage somebodyfrom turning off the tv and writing—especially when there are a few cases of NaNo books getting published. Don’t believe me? Go check out my friend, Courtney Moulton. Her phenomenally awesome debut novel, ANGELFIRE, was a NaNo book.
Maybe NaNo is a different kind of novel writing—and maybe the speed of it can sometimes detract from the quality of the writing. And maybe people who like to say things like “my craft” and use fancy literary terms when referencing their writing find NaNo to be a cheap way to write a book. But you know what? Everyone writes differently. It’s what makes this community so awesome.
There are the people who like to savor each word, who take a week to write a 500-word chapter, who like to think of writing as this long, thoughtful process. Yeah, it’s a beautiful art/craft, and a wonderful tradition going back thousands of years. But just because some people take nine months to write their first draft doesn’t mean that their method is the ONLY method, or the right method, or the true method.
Then there are the people who write in a frenzy—five, eight, ten thousand words in a day. Every day. Until it’s finished, or you break from the insanity of writing-writing-writing until you drop. And sometimes what we pound out is equivalent to vomit, but sometimes that frenzy and momentum gets us so into the scene that what we write kicks ass.
Obviously, I am a part of the frenzy group. When I write a book, it’s pretty much like NaNo. I don’t set daily or monthly word count goals, but I literally just write until I think my brain is going to explode, or I’m going to pass out at my desk. While writing the first draft, I don’t have any interest in contemplating the deep themes and pretty words in each and every sentence.
I write the first draft for the plot and the characters—I write because this story’s been building up inside me for so long that once I start that first chapter, I have to hand over any hope of having a life for the next month or so.
Maybe that’s not real novel writing to some people—but you know what? It’s real writing to me. That’s how I write books. And that’s why I love writing. Because Ilive for that frenzied feeling, for the thrill of characters and worlds springing up at the touch of my fingers on the keyboard, for eighteen hour days that go by in the blink of an eye. For the days when I write 12k words and it’s 3 AM and I can STILL keep going, but I have to make myself stop, because I have to be up in a few hours.
So, I just want to say, for the record, that NaNo rocks. Don’t listen to the haters. Enjoy the frenzy. Enjoy the sensation of having so many people writing around you.
Actually, one of the best things about NaNo so far is the fact that many of my friends are also writing. We’ve had a Write Nights, where a few of us chill on gchat, write our WIPs for 30 minutes, then check in to share what we’ve written. If you’re having trouble getting motivated for NaNo, or just plain stalling in the middle of your ms, get some friends to do a Write Night with you. In the few hours that we had Write Night last week, I wrote 4,400 words (for a grand total that day of 8,500 words). The pressure of being expected to produce something in 30 minutes was a fantastic motivator, and the positive energy was ridiculously awesome.
And you know what? This WIP of mine? It kinda sucks right now. I’m about 1/5 through it, and I already know that I’m going to have to rewrite the first 5 or 6 chapters. But that’s for later, and even if I took all week to write one chapter, it’d still be just as rough. No matter how fast or slow I write, I always need the first 5 or so chapters to sort out the voice, pace, and the world.
Right now, what’s more important to me is creating the skeleton of the story and riding the wave of energy and motivation until I write the last sentence of the ms. THEN I can go back and focus on prettifying sentences. Once I can see the ms in its entirety, THEN it’s time to slow down and focus on revising. But that’s just me. And it’s not the right or the wrong way–it’s just my way. I’m not gonna tell you you’re doing it wrong if you do it differently.
Don’t worry if you think what you’re writing now is lousy because you wrote it fast, or whatever the naysayers claim. It’s probably lousy because it’s a first draft, and EVERYONE, no matter if they’re an aspiring or published author, no matter if they write fast or slow, writes first drafts that need heavy amounts of revision. You’re in good company.
So, here’s to you, NaNo participants. Here’s to your novels, whether they wind up in a drawer or published. Here’s to those lousy first drafts. Here’s to writing, whether it be fast or slow.
Stop listening to the haters, to the naysayers, and just WRITE.
Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.