Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Sad NaNo Season

This year, at the beginning of October, I was looking forward to National Novel Writing Month with gusto. I have participated in it the past three Novembers. In 2007, I wrote over 50,000 words, developing 4 short stories that I had written years earlier into a novel. It was not nearly finished, so I continued working on it for each of the next two Novembers. By November 2009, it was 114,000 words long and the first draft was very close to being finished. A few months later, with some intermittent work on it, I finally had a completed first draft. I felt happy with it.

And then it sat. I made a few halfhearted attempts at revision. I did some research to fill in details that I had been vague on during the initial writing, but not much because that seemed to lead me off into endless digressions (internet surfing). I made a list of (mostly minor) problems with the manuscript that I needed to consider and rework. But then I didn't do it.

So when November rolled around again this year, I considered and rejected the idea of using NaNoWriMo to work on my revisions. Although NaNo might motivate me to work on those pesky revisions and it might add some necessary discipline and structure, revisions aren't really what NaNoWriMo is all about. Is it?

My next novel was rolling around in my head. I was laying out scenes, thinking about plot, building my novel world in my mind -- I was pumped and ready to go!

And then I went to the Surrey International Writers' Conference (SiWC) in late October. In three intense, useful days, I suddenly discovered why I was making so little progress revising my manuscript. It wasn't just that I was procrastinating (although I was), and it wasn't just that I had way too much stress at work (although I did). My revisions were stymied because I didn't really have a clue how to evaluate my novel's structure, story, and style. I didn't know what wasn't working well in it, or how to go about fixing it.

Although it was disappointing to realize that my manuscript was far less finished than I thought, at least I returned from the conference with some great insights about the revisions that I need to do and why. For the last few weeks, I have been evaluating the manuscript in terms of subplot structure, conflict, tension, character development, action, dialogue, and description. I have been developing a plan for the revisions.

So why is it a sad NaNo season? Well, I've shelved my new novel idea for now. It's time to work on those revisions.

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