Oh, the Novels We’ll Write

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November is upon us again.  In some circles, that means pulling down dollar store cobwebs and chucking melted jack-o-lanterns into the dumpster.  To others, it means one thing and one thing only: National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as it’s commonly known).

I just finished an amazing post on NaNoWriMo by author Caitlin E. Jones, and she honed in on the major problem I have with NaNoWriMo: writing the book is only the start.  NaNo, and the model it presents, does not really prepare the writer for the often-grueling task of editing their 50K word masterpiece.

I’ve only ever completed one NaNo challenge, a science fiction novel called The Dreaming.  While I have to admit, it was wonderful getting the story out of my head (where it had lingered in my brain for years), the completed draft was a hot mess.  A hot mess with some great ideas, moments of prose so beautiful it made me wibble, and a few unexpectedly wonderful characters–but a hot freaking mess, nonetheless.

Without the planning and on-the-spot revision one usually incorporates into the writing process, my NaNo novel took several wonky detours (including a murder plot, blackmail, and several other things I have no business writing about).  By the time I was done and ready to start the revision process, I realized more than half of those fifty-thousand words were completely unusable.

The “finished novel” that resulted from my successful NaNoWriMo experience sat, partially edited, on my cloud drive for nearly three years.  I just couldn’t bear to look at it.  Couldn’t bear to think about how this story that had meant so much to me was no more drek than I felt myself capable of redeeming.

So, that was my last time participating in NaNoWriMo.

But all hope is not lost.  I’ve decided to dedicate November 2016 to salvaging The Dreaming. This morning, I finished deleting the unusable scenes, cutting my word count down to less than 20K.  It’s not a completed novel by any stretch, but I think I can work with this. I think I can do what I should have done in 2013–think, plan, revise, and figure out exactly what I want this novel to be.  Then, and only then, will I feel I’ve actually completed my NaNoWriMo novel.