Friday, November 8, 2013

NaNoWriMo and my life lesson in first drafts

This November marks my first time participating in NaNoWriMo and I can't believe we're one fourth there. The requirement for it is 50,000 words in 30 days. Though I will have written 50,000 words this month, I've also made my own personal requirement for myself: 80,000 words in 56 days.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that it helps condition you to write daily, which is what I needed. Not the journal type of writing that I did daily, but the get-that-fiction-out writing. It's strange though, I enjoy writing but it's also a source of anxiety. Anxiety that is probably due to self-doubt. To explain, let me tell you a story:

Earlier this year I made five goals. One of them was to write a manuscript. The thing with me is I tend to write something then stop after so many pages. I just never finish big projects. In college we concentrated on poetry and short stories, so when I graduated I set out to write a novel. I didn't work, didn't bother finding a job, instead I just cranked out words. I wrote all the way up to the climax of the story in just a matter of weeks. I was almost there. Then the real world set in. I realized that other things were more important and that writing would just have to wait.

I got a job, I moved, and life immediately changed before my eyes. Sometimes I still wake up surprised at the turn of events. It took me awhile to get back into the groove of writing again. A part of me just resisted so much. Even writing in my journal, something I always made time to do, had become difficult.

Sometime in October (or possibly September) I dug up the old manuscript and printed the first 50 pages. I walked to a cafe down the street, ordered myself a pumpkin latte, and sat in one of the brown overstuffed armchairs to read it. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't my reaction.

I hated my manuscript. Yeah it was a first draft, but it just seemed utterly repulsive to me. I could see my lack of consistency, the voice needed work, dialogue could be better, descriptions needed to be more poetic instead of plain, pacing needed fixing, and so much more. I realized that this first try was a learning experience. It was still a good story, but a story that needed work. One day I would come back to it, but it just wasn't ready... or maybe I wasn't ready.

So I tucked it away and didn't bother reading the rest of it. The first fifty pages had been enough heartache for a day.

As the days passed, I became so anxious and wondered if I would ever become a writer. I was scared to involve myself in another long project in fear of setting myself up for disappointment. So I turned to reading. Like old lovers, the flame was rekindled. I loved the stories, the words, the characters, the memorable scenes, and the array of emotions as I experienced everything alongside the characters.

And I wanted so much to be the creator of something so wondrous that would brighten up someone's day. I wanted to make someone fall in love with reading just like I did.

I started reading writing and author blogs to get inspired and got back to work with another idea (my current project).

I still get anxious about writing. So much that I will never let anyone read my work until it's fully completed for peer review. I'm not sure how many drafts it'll take, but one thing I'm sure of is that it'll never be one.

One thing I did learn about first drafts? It's functional, and that's what makes it magical. Though it may not be the best prose you can manage, the beauty of its magic lies in its existence. The story is real (word-wise anyway) and not just something flitting through your mind.

Isn't that something to be celebrated?

Today I've reached 30,000 words. In just another week I'll be halfway done and I know I'll get this one done. I've outlined the rest, and now that I've seen where the story is headed, I'm excited. I'll make my goal this year.

To all you other NaNoWriMo first-timers, stick with it!

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