Friday, 21 October 2011

Edits and NaNoWriMo


I'm right in the middle of the second edits of my forthcoming Tween novel, 'Summer of the Eagles', and I'm enjoying them immensely. Not because I don't have many (I do!) but I'm learning so much from this particular content editor. The publisher, MuseItUp (MuseItYoung imprint), is Canadian, the editor is American, and I'm allowed to keep my British spelling and phrases where possible. But what a lot I'm learning - about using active verbs and getting rid of far too much use of words like 'was', 'had', 'would', and so on. I don't always agree with every suggestion, and Susan is happy with that as she wants me to think for myself and keep my own voice. I'm now going to go through all my other writing and put some of this into practise - I hope!


I've been reading and hearing a lot about the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I must admit I'm tempted to sign up for the first time. I'm a bit wary about the committment to try and write 50,000 words in one month, as I have a competition to judge during November, as well as the other writing projects on the go. BUT... I can't quite get into my next Regency novel as much I should and that's about the number of words I still need to finish it.

The connection between the edits and NaNoWriMo is that the whole philosophy behind the November writing month is to switch off your internal editor, forget about spelling, punctuation and grammar, and get the story down. As a panster type of writer, I think this might be an ideal way for me to move on with the book. After the month's challenge, of course, the book then has to be redrafted and edited, but I love that part of the process. It's getting the initial full length book written that's my problem as I'm too easily distracted by other writing.

So, I'd love some advice, opinions and experiences about NaNoWriMo, please, from anyone who has tackled it in a previous year. Or even if you're thinking of signing up this year. I need to decide soon!

Rosemary

21 comments:

Vikki said...

I think you should go for it as I think it will be a good way for to be stay focused on the one piece!

Vikki said...

I just read that back and it appears my brain wasn't engaging as fast as I was typing - that should have read 'it will be a good way for you to stay focused'!

Joanna said...

What an interesting post, Rosemary. I do think NaNoWriMo is a good idea and works well for lots of writers, but not for me. I'm a wimp. I feel too pressurised by the word count.

I don't usually check my word count until a story is finished. Sometimes I'm surprised by how much I've written and sometimes I discover the story is complete after only 900 or so words (although short shorts are rare). As soon as I'm given a word count to aim for, my writing goes to pot. It feels like a millstone round my neck. And I don't know if I could shake it off for NaNoWriMo, despite the fact that I'd love to try it and envy writers who do!

I can't switch off my internal editor. I'm a pantster with plot, preferring it to grow from the characters as they develop, yet I stop to correct and improve grammar, punctuation, paragraph breaks etc all the time. I can't leave it alone. I always want the first draft to emerge as near to perfection as possible, even if just in terms of presentation.

When I went to a Meg Rossoff talk, she mentioned the importance of the active verb and, ever since, during editing, I have deleted virtually every use of the passive that has slipped in.

Bill Kirton said...

I agree about editors, Rosemary. When you get a good one, he/she teaches you an awful lot. My first ever editor made brilliant suggestions which definitely improved my books and the American one I had for The Figurehead was amazingly conscientious and saved me from some embarrassing errors.

As for NaNoWriteMo, I know lots of people sign up for it and most seem to think it was worth it, even if only for feeling obliged to keep on churning out the words, but I don't really understand it. It seems an artificial way of writing to me. If you have something to say and you're enjoying saying it, that's the essence of the job. Chaining yourself to a computer and hitting word counts rather than taking time to shape your phrases and rhythms is a different activity. But I'm an old fogey.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for your prodding, Vikki - you know me so well!

Hi Joanna - thanks for that very interesting reply. I can imagine if someone can't switch off their internal editor long enough, then it will be more difficult to get the words down. I haven't tried doing this before so not sure if I could. And the pressure of the word count might get to me... yet it might be what I need to progress! You'll soon find out if I take the challenge.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Bill - thanks for that considered reply. I think you've highlighted a very important point about the different approaches to writing. I do agree with you about the artificiallity of the 50,000 in one month. However... I wish I could apply myself to writing in the way you suggest, by taking time to enjoy shaping phrases, rhythms etc. It's not that I don't enjoy that, of course, it's more to do with lack of self-discipline in concentrating on one particular piece of work until finished (remember my butterfly post). And in allowing mysefl to be distracted by too much online activity!

The draw of this challenge, this year anyway, is to feel under pressure to produce the words I need, so I completely focus on it (around other necessities) - but then to have the pleasure of redrafting and producing something worthwhile from that. Am I convincing myself here? Still not sure!

Anne Gallagher said...

I've tried NaNo twice and failed both times. It's the pressure to get to the end result that I find daunting. I do much better without it.

And I agree with Bill. A great editor is a godsend!

Frances Garrood said...

I can see all sides of the argument. It would be great to just write write write, and have at least the bare bones of a novel at the end. It seems to me to be the ultimate answer to Not Getting Dwon To It (which is what I'm doing now). But, oh, the pressure! I don't think I could cope with that at all. and lIke Joanna, I have an internal editor, and s/he would almost certainly veto it!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Anne - actually that was a helpful comment as it reminds me we are allowed to fail getting to the 50,000 target! But I can imagine it's terrible pressure.

Frances - glad you can see both sides too! It's very helpful having these comments as it's making me seriously think about it from all angles.

Patsy said...

I enjoy attempting NaNo. I'm not too bothered about completing all 50,000 - I just write as much as I can during the month.

gillyfraser said...

I'm going through exactly the same internal debate myself. I am drawn to the idea of having to write every day, especially as I've had a story idea bugging away at my brain for at least two years and this might be the ideal way to let it out.
On the other hand however - I know perfectly well that I've got waaay too many other things to do during November and I can't even begin to imagine how I'll fit all of them in - far less stick in an extra fifteen hundred words or so every single day.
Let us know what you decide Ros!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Patsy - again, that's a helpful comment, thank you. It's obviously all about setting aside some dedicated writing time, no matter if we make a particular target.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Gilly - Glad you're having the same debate! I've got as far as writing down all the other things I have to consider during November while I decide!

Anita Davison said...

I too wrestled with whether or not to try this, but I took the plunge and instead of losing momentum as I imagined I would, having a target of 1,650 words a day actually kept me focused. You have no time to re-read, edit, tweak or even change your mind about where the story is going and at the end I had the bones of a novel. It needed reworking, polishing, editing and expanding, but the book was published by Muse in September. Go for it!

Joan Fleming said...

I think this is one of those 'horses for courses' dilemmas. It really depends on so many factors: why you write, how you write ... in fact probably all the 'w' questions. If it works for you (and 'write here, write now' did for me), then go for it. And you're allowed to jump off if you choose. I may even do it myself!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Anita - thank you so much for that positive spin on it! Knowing my nature, I reckon I probably need something like this to keep me focused.

Hello Joan - you're absolutely right, of course. I'm more and more convinced by the hour!

Rachel Cotterill said...

I've done NaNo four times, successfully, and I definitely recommend it. It's a great way to force yourself to focus, and the community is wonderful.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Rachel- thanks a lot for that positive comment. I'm definitely more convinced I'd like to try now!

Paula Martin said...

I'm going to try it - although I'm not sure I can turn off my internal editor, as I can agonise over a few sentences for hours!

K.C. Woolf said...

I considered taking part a few years ago, but I decided not to in the end and I'm glad about that. When it comes down to it, I don't want to forget about spelling, punctuation and grammar, not even for a first draft.

I also like writing over a longer period because that gives my story and my characters the time to grow, evolve and crystallise into coherent personalities.

I also like having the luxury of not writing for a few weeks when my subconscious mind is chewing on something.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Paula - okay, I think I'm convinced now! Even if I can't turn off my internal editor, it will give me a much needed kick up the bahookey!

Hello K.C - I absolutely see what you mean about taking time and thinking about your novel. I guess this again shows how important it is to know what kind of writer each of us is. I'm a terrible procrastinator and this is the main reason I'm even thinking about NaNo!