* Week One, the Learning Curve *
According to the metrics on the NaNoWriMo website, aspiring authors must pen the equivalent of 1,667 words every day during the month of November to attain the 50,000 word minimum. Every. Single. Day.
So. Week One is in the books. And how have I done? Good. Really good. Really, really good. (If you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo is, and am wondering what my part in it is, click here.)
I’ve logged 18,388 words as of Friday, November 6. That’s way ahead of the 1,667 word per day quota. I even took the weekend off because I had so many words logged – and I had come to a place in the story where it felt like it was time to take a break. A calculated risk, yes, but with what I’ve learned this past week, I’m not too worried.
So what have I learned? Frankly, a lot. I’ve learned that it’s incredibly freeing to give yourself permission to write crap. To not stop at every paragraph and re-read what you just wrote and polish it and make sure it “works”, but to just… write, and not look back.
I also learned that what I focus on when I write is really important. I’m finding if the focus is to keep writing rather than to write until you hit a roadblock, to keep writing right over the roadblock instead of stopping to fix it, then there’s a far better chance of charting some serious progress. Additionally, by not allowing myself to get bogged down by details – either in supplying them or making sure they’re accurate – I’ve found that my ideas have been soaring. Details can be fun, but if they are going to shut down creativity, then just let them go. Leave them for the second draft.
For example, one scene I wrote had two of my main characters meeting over a business lunch. I had a heckvua lot of fun deciding exactly what was on the menu for this luncheon; surprisingly, that level of detail really helped in the development of characters – how they related to each other, how they interacted, their dialog. Suddenly they came to life, when all I knew going into the scene was “Mr. X met Ms. Y over a business luncheon.” Later, however, the story is going to include one of those characters placing a bet. Being a non-gambler myself, I know nothing about placing bets. When I’ve tried to write this story in past, worrying about getting that scene right has stopped me before I even started. Now, though, since the focus is not to get it “right”, but simply to keep writing, I am confident that I can get past this roadblock, even if it ends up simply being, “Ms. Y places a bet, and then….” Because the details only count right now if they allow me to keep writing.
But the main thing I learned this first week is that giving myself permission to keep writing without looking back, without stopping to say, “is this good enough?”, freed me up to write the story that I wanted to write. I started writing for myself. Not for the reader, not for publication, not for reputation, but purely and simply for my own sense of enjoyment. And dang, if that doesn’t feel good. That’s why it’s been so easy to keep writing. Because I’m writing for myself.
I have no doubt that, when and if I decide to take this story further after NaNoWriMo, what will end up in the second draft is going to be mighty different than what is in this first one. I’m sure there will be huge, massive cuts, and a great deal of effort made to clarify, to connect, to flesh out what is ungainly, unclear, obtuse. Major and meticulous research will have changed parts of it drastically, and perhaps will even change fundamentals in the plot.
Who knows? I’m not worrying about it at this point. I readily acknowledge that this first draft is crap. I embrace that it is overly wordy, rambling, off the mark and totally indulgent. Which is totally fine. No matter how different the story becomes in the days/weeks/months to come, no matter how finely tuned it becomes, how tightly it gets spun, how “good” it ends up being, I’ll always have this first sloppy, bloated, wonderful mess of a draft just for me. And that’s really making writing fun.
So how far away is Monday? I know it was my decision to take a break over the weekend, but now I’m chomping at the bit to get started again. Heigh ho!