Tomorrow is the start of National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a movement that started in the US and aims to get would-be novelists up and writing. The aim is to produce 50,000 words in the month – I think it works out as 1,700 a day – and for many published writers, it’s been the boost they need to get published. As I said in my last post, I fully endorse the ‘just write’ approach of NaNoWriMo – just writing first and not worrying about editing is probably the single best thing you can do to become a writer.
But what happens when you’ve done it? The writing, sadly, isn’t the end of it. So for those who, like me, have two further books written but in no way finished, I’d like to suggest: NaNoEdMo. Yes, it’s time for National Novel-Editing Month! After all, as someone once said (please Google, I’m too busy editing), Writing is re-writing. Here’s how I suggest you spend NaNoEdMo:
November 1st: Stare at your novel.
2nd Stare some more.
3rd Do a search for how many times you’ve used the word ‘fungible’. 0 times.
4th Stare some more. Tap your fingers.
5th Throw a tantrum and cry, ‘I can’t do this! Don’t make me!’
6th Burst of energy. Write ten-page summary of your novel and all the issues you need to fix.
7th Eat some biscuits.
8th Laboriously line-edit your first three pages. Feeling smug, eat some more biscuits.
9th Accompanied by biscuits and seventeen cups of tea, you edit an entire story arc. Hob-Nobs all round!
10th Self-doubt returns. Back to staring at the screen, tapping fingers, and biscuits. This time they are the biscuits of shame.
11th Deep breath. Crack knuckles. Review character development.
12th Rewrite your opening.
13th Re-rewrite your opening. Add Prologue.
14th Addicted to the thrilling titillation of the Prologue. Add another.
15th Realise two prologues is probably excessive. Cut one and feel bereft.
16th Realise you need some more action in the middle. Invent a new character to fix the problem. ‘Finbar’ is a gay astronaut who likes water-skiing. You’re charmed with him and write a whole character back-story.
17th Realise Finbar has no function and probably no place in your historical novel set in Constantinople. Cut him and feel bereft.
18th Another attack of self-doubt. Don’t get a lot done as you stare, drink tea, and eat biscuits.
19th Delete 1,000 words
20th Delete 2,000 words
21st Delete 3,000. Realise you’ve gone a bit cursor-happy.
22nd Weigh self; realise you’ve put on five pounds. Switch from biscuits to celery.
23rd Another burst of energy. Break your plot down into post-its and put your scheme up on the wall.
24th Revise character arcs.
25th Revise sub-plots. Go through and add clues and hints to the ending.
26th Make the ending stronger and more poignant.
27th Go back and re-re-rewrite the start. This time it’s much better as you’ve been through the rest of the book.
28th Keep going.
29th Have a cry. Find the biscuits from where you’ve hidden them in the salad drawer. Eat biscuits. Keep going.
30th Spend an hour trying to delete a comma before realising it’s dirt on the screen. Keep going. Finish at 3am. Cry some more. Eat biscuits. Collapse.
There you have it. After the joy of creation, comes the pain of editing. It is the ying to NaNoWriMo’s yang, the hard graft of re-writing versus the joy of writing. It is the Dark Side of the Force. But you’ll feel so happy once you’ve finished your book that you won’t even mind– and you’ll be many steps closer to the possibility of getting published. Now, where are those custard creams?