Happy NaNoWriMo-Eve

31 10 2012

It’s that time of year again. While a lot of you are overindulging in pumpkin there are a few mad people waiting for midnight when the writing may commence. Okay, that’s more than a few but worldwide it amounts to a few. National Novel Writing Month starts at midnight tonight (local time) and ends at midnight on 30th November. The aim is to write 50,000 words of novel during November – that’s 1,667 words each and every day. More words are even better and a complete novel is wonderful.

I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now and I’ve never managed to start and complete a novel during the month. I have started several novels – two of them are finished. One was finished two years after I started it during last year’s NaNo. I’ve spent the last year poking at it, grizzling and editing out all the NaNo styling and a couple of days ago it was accepted for publication. More about that another time!

What is NaNo-styling and why do I want to edit it out of a novel? NaNo is all about word count and switching off the internal editor to produce that word count. For example: “it’s” is one word and “it is” is two words so for NaNo why use one word when you could use two? All contractions are to be avoided (or searched out on a bad day and uncontracted). Another NaNo rule is not to delete anything – if you don’t like it and want to delete it either format it as “strikethrough” or put it in square brackets and mark it for deletion, e.g. [delete this section: complete blithering rubbish]. The second option gives you three more words!

If you have some created words for items in your story or want to create some but are lacking inspiration then you can increase your NaNo word count by using those square brackets again: [insert name of skirt thing here] and there you have another six words instead of one.

So you can see that a NaNo manuscript needs a bit of work to get it into a more normal format. Using those square brackets means that you can find the simple fixes by searching for a starting square bracket. The driveling takes a lot more effort to fix.

So why produce a mucky first draft that needs a lot of editing? That has many answers.

For a first time NaNo-er the whole point is to prove that you can write a novel. It may be a very bad novel but you have written it. Many NaNo addicts don’t take that any farther just start a new novel the next November. Some take their NaNo novel and get it published – I’d be one of those!

Writing is a very personal thing and every writer has a different way of doing it. There are some broad similarities but there are an infinite number of ways of putting those words in your head down on “paper”.

I mentioned switching off the internal editor to do NaNo – we all have an internal editor who isn’t always very helpful. The internal editor can be a big obstacle to writing anything at all: the phrasing isn’t right; the spelling is wrong; the grammar atrocious; the whole idea is stupid; and why waste time writing anything else about these boring, cardboard characters?

NaNo isn’t about writing literary prose NaNo is about writing words one after another until you have collected 50,000 of them all together in one manuscript. You could just write the same word over and over (or write it once and then use the Copy function) to get 50,000 words, but that would be cheating; and the only person that you would be cheating would be yourself. That doesn’t mean that you can’t write some truly apalling poetry and copy that through the manuscript to boost word count!

Another word count booster is description: why use one adjective when you could use three? Why not wedge in some adverbs? Stuck for what to write? Describe the scene in depth with as many adjectives and adverbs and words as possible. Does the room have a carpet? What colour is it? What sort of pattern? Is it thick or thin, old or new, clean or dirty? You could write a whole paragraph just about the carpet – you could even write about the things that the carpet isn’t, e.g. “it was not an expensive, luxurious, antique Persian carpet and it certainly did not have any obvious magical properties that might make it more interesting, it showed absolutely no inclination for flying and swooping through the air, there were not even any tassles”.

Perhaps that gives you an idea of why there is much editing to be done on a NaNo manuscript!

If you want to know more check out the website: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/about

I’m off to announce my presence for this year – Mad Mara rides again!




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