I've written more than 1/3 of my 50,000 words. After this morning's writing session, I'm sitting at 19,000-odd words and plan to do another 1,000 tonight to put me over 20k. (This will also put me two full days ahead which is good because I'm seeing many things on the horizon that could impede my progress.)
The first time I tried my hand at writing a novel, I think it was somewhere around this point when I realized that I was indeed writing a novel. This was quickly followed by sheer terror.
The terror is again building. But for a different reason this time.
NaNoWriMo's lovely organizers send me email about twice a week, reminding me how hard this is. How my enthusiasm is going to peter out this week. That I shouldn't worry about whether my story is good at all. They offer tips about filling up word count with things like minute details about what everyone is wearing until you figure out where the story is going.
They even have authors giving tips. At first, when I saw an email in my inbox from Jasper Fforde, I was elated. I interviewed him a couple years ago... maybe he wanted to get back in touch for a follow-up? Nope. He offered the following:
But the overriding importance is that the 50,000 words don’t have to be good. They don’t even have to be spelled properly, punctuated or even tabulated neatly on the page.
I'm sorry, Jasper. You're wrong. Spelling does count. At least for me. And that comma that I typed outside the quote? I've got to go fix it.
I'm listening to competing voices about NaNo. On one hand, there's the NaNo crown, telling me to just write 50,000 words, no matter their order, or usefulness, or even spelling. Makes sense -- turn that inner editor off. On the other, there is another contingent of writers saying NaNo teaches the wrong things -- that quantity over quality is a bad lesson to learn. Stop and make it good the first time because you won't like the major editing that comes afterward -- and that makes sense too.
There's my own voice, too. It's not talking so much about process. No, it's saying things like, have you noticed how dusty it is in here? Or who's going to wash those dishes; the cat doesn't have thumbs. Or, go make a NaNoWriMo2009 playlist for your iPod.
And then there's the voice that says, "Those last three pages suck. They are boring. If you're bored, a reader will be doubly bored. Why aren't they good like those other three pages back a couple chapters?" Or the one that says, "Are you mental? NaNo is just crazy."
The terror comes because I don't know which voice is right. I think it's quite possible they all are.
I fix my typos. I reread part of what I wrote yesterday to get going again. I've gone back and added little bits of dialogue and description. I'm not describing every last button on someone's clothes and I'm not rewriting whole scenes. Yet I know that everything I've written for the last two days will need serious work during revisions. Serious cutting and rewriting.
Getting words on paper is important, the sheer constancy of creating. My book does have a plot. I am in an upward arc toward the 40-45K mark that will be a big revelation for the whole story.
The terror, quite frankly, is a motivation -- an I'll show them all deal. The book won't completely suck. But I'll follow the rules for the most part. For the next 20 days, I'll listen to all the voices off-and-on, when they make sense.
Even the one about the playlist.