Those famous words from Dr. Frankenstein came to my mind this morning while in a discussion with a writer friend. It’s November, which means roughly 350,000 people or more are trying their hand at writing.
Remember in Ratatouille when the chef said “Anyone can cook.”? That’s true, but not everyone cooks well. The same is true for writing. Anyone can write, not all can write well. NaNoWriMO is a great time to try your hand at writing. Thirty days of literary abandon that serves several purposes.
- Daily habit – A mere 1667 words a day, not a ridiculous amount but sometimes even that little bit is difficult especially if you are not in the daily habit of writing.
- Accumulative Incentive – the 1667 adds up quickly, and NaNoWriMO has charts, calendars, and many materials to show you where you should be for the word counts, and shows the cumulative effect of doing it daily. In a way it’s nearly as magical as the principle of compound interest. Both are investments, it’s up to you to utilize them.
- Get the first draft down – This point is confusing for many newbies. A first draft is not a polished draft, and not everything you write is gold. Voltaire wrote “Candide” in three days without the convenience of modern editing practices. It is a short but enduring tale that entertains and mocks humanity itself, poking fun at every turn. The dry humor is as welcome today as it was shocking and in your face in its day. Hemingway it is said, edited one particular passage 37 times before he was satisfied. Any writer worth their salt will spend more time editing than actually writing. I know, sorry to burst your bubble but it’s true.
- NaNoWriMo has a deadline and a finish line – for those of us, Yes, like me, that have a mountain of unfinished projects collecting dust like an old ladies Hummel figure collection, NaNo sets the pace, puts the finish line in clear sight, and has a definite deadline. Thirty days, not thirty-one, not thirty-two. 50,000 words not 49,500 or 36,800 – 50,ooo words in thirty days. It’s a mini marathon with daily workouts. They practically hold your hand, encouraging you to the finish.
As some of you may know, I changed my mind about participating in NaNO. Yes, I know – back and forth, back and forth, like a ship tossed at sea. Which was the final straw as my new project is about pirates, ships treasure, and romance on the high sea – arggggghhh. I am plugging away at the NaNo novel, but I made myself a deal. I will tackle my other irons first before ever putting a single word towards my nano count. I am behind the curve where last year I was crushing it. If you take into consideration though, the number of words written and edited daily on articles, Kiss of the Dragon, Faere Guardian, Love Notes and whatever Storytime project I”m working on, my daily word count for total number of words written is more like 4500 – 5000 a day. I am well aware I need to focus, that’s not the point here. Let’s move on shall we?
So what has my dander up? It’s many people posting to the NaNo group bragging about their most recent paragraph or prose. It’s not one person but a collective of the general idea that their writing is golden. Let’s get this put into perspective – a NaNo novel is 50,000 words – which is short of any standard length novel including YA, which runs between 60,000 and 75,000. Harlequin romances sometimes come in at 50000 as other trade romance novels. I could almost guarantee though, that even Harlequin novels are edited and revised from their initial draft. November is for writing, December is for editing. Many seem to forget that necessary evil.
My second complaint about the mass number of posts is the telling. I”m sure you’ve heard the old mantra show don’t tell when writing.
Johnny and Susie went into the barn. Rick was dead in Stars stall. There was a bloody scythe hanging over the door and the rear door to the barn w as standing open. Who could have done it? ( The character names have been changed to protect the writer, and condensed slightly to make a point.)
Where’s the description? Where is the emotion? The shock? What about the senses? I should be transported into that barn, Johnny and Susie laughing with each other lightheartedly joking about the fact that their friend Rick was always late. Perhaps they were going to the show, or to a rodeo. Where’s the senses in this? What are they seeing, hearing, what about the smell? The coppery tang to the air as they approach finding their friend in a pool of blood soaked straw, the dark crimson blood dripping from the scythe that is wobbling back and forth on the stall door. Where is the building terror? The sense of fear that the murderer wasn’t far as the scythe was still rocking and the door was swinging on its hinges? I want it to draw me into the scene, make me want more.
Sadly, many think because there is a mass of words in the file that their novel is complete. First draft we write the backbone of the story, we tell. Second draft we create – breathing life into a dead document, making the characters live, adding depth,breadth, and length, giving it flavor. You don’t want to read my first draft for a love scene. It often reads like a technical manual. Insert tab A into slot B, repeat. OK, not quite that bad but you get the idea.
Anyone can write, but it takes work to write a story that readers want to read. It’s my goal to improve my craft, working towards a polished piece that leaves a reader on the edge of her seat, turning pages to find out what happens next. I’m not the fastest writer, nor do I come up with the most ingenious plots. Simple plots can come to life when the right words are strung together. the basic plot of all romance writing is very simple – two people fall in love, and in my world, live happily ever after. The same plot can be told millions of different ways. When I can get my writer’s voice out-of-the-way enough to get the reader involved with my characters needs and desires, then I have succeeded in telling a tale worth reading.
Sadly, many NaNoers will put out a Frankennovel. They have every right to feel proud for accomplishing the goal of 50000 words, and reaching the end, but much like The monster with the Abby Normal brain, it just ain’t quite right! Do us all a favor and edit the crap out of that beast before publishing.
Write on my friends, write on!