Yep, you read that title right. Usually you hear “it’s only defeat if you let it be,” but today I’m changing it up, because people are too often concerned with “NOT LOSING,” that they might miss the point of winning. I’m mostly referring to NaNoWriMo, and more specifically part of a post I made just before it began – the part where I said “even if you don’t finish, finish.”
It’s December, and yet another NaNoWriMo is over. If you participated, did you hit 50,000 words before the deadline?
Amongst my friends and across the internetverse, I’m hearing the whole spectrum of answers – people who gave up after the first week, people who wrote 70K+, people who made it by the skin of their teeth, people who made it half way but are intent on finishing the story, etc. There’s a whole gamut, but perhaps the question is off – maybe a better question than “did you hit 50K before the deadline?” is “did you win?”
I have one buddy who hit 60K and stopped writing. The story wasn’t done, she just stopped writing. She loses (not that my opinion means much – anyone who knows me also knows that I intentionally manufacture unrealistic expectations of people, sometimes including myself). It’s not hard to see where I’m going with this. 50K is a number. Anyone can write 50K worth of utter nonsense in a month, or cut and paste words until they hit a word count. The premise of NaNoWriMo is that one writes a novel of some sort, and while some of you might think that you wrote “utter nonsense,” I’m willing to bet there’s some sort of narrative, logical thread running through whatever you wrote, which makes it NOT “utter nonsense.” Keep in mind that just because it’s not nonsense doesn’t mean it’s good either, but I digress.
Sure, maybe that story will take another 50K or 100K to finish. So what? Pretend December is November and do it again. Maybe your story was done at 30K or 10K. So what? You wrote it. Even 10,000 words is more than some people write their entire lives. Good job. Pat on the back. Glitter.
Well, if your only goal was to hit 50K, you can go ahead and close this browser window now.
If however your goal was to tell a story, keep writing until it’s done. If your first draft is done or “done enough,” start editing (or rather, back off the story for a few days / months / etc. and THEN start editing). This isn’t brain surgery and you don’t need a fancy flowchart to spell it out. Before you go sending it off to agents, do yourself a favor and edit it. Read it to yourself out loud (or get a text to speech program that’ll do it for you). Hunt down those excessive adverbs. SHOW important emotional reactions, don’t TELL us what the character’s feeling. Does your character have flaws? Can you sum-up the main conflict in a paragraph? Scrutinize your pacing, diction, dialogue, transitions, etc. Get a crit group or a crit buddy and tell them to be a brutally honest as possible. PUNCH YOUR DOCUMENT BETWEEN THE LEGS UNTIL YOU’RE BOTH BLOODY AND WEEPING.
Ok, maybe not that much. You get the idea. Or maybe you don’t.