Every November authors scamper to sign up for something called National Write a Novel month. The “challenge” so to speak was created back in 1999 to force writers into writing 50,000 words in a month, which is either a small size novel or a novella, depending on who you ask. Either way, I must say I have always felt it to be a load of malarkey. I still feel that way, and I’m not the only one. I recently happened upon this article where a reader wrote of their own disdain for the National Challenge.
I am not the first person to point out that “writing a lot of crap” doesn’t sound like a particularly fruitful way to spend an entire month, even if it is November.
That quote made me laugh, because I am in utter agreement on this point. I know there’s some authors out there right now who are getting particularly red in the face at me. They’re thinking things like you just don’t get it. I get it. You’re challenging yourself to sit down and write every day even if it’s crap. This advice has been around since the beginning of time, and I’ve been denying that advice for twenty years now. What is the value in writing a lot of crap? You enhance your editing skills after you’ve written a lot of crap?
That leads me to the other part of this — sometimes as an editor you will realize that something is an utter load of crap–meaning it CANNOT be saved. That’s right, you spent an entire month on a novel that is laden with plot holes, grammatical and syntax errors, unrealistic characters and any other number of issues. All of those issues result in a manuscript that may take you ten times the amount of time you took to write it to edit it, and by the end of it, you’ll have the novel you should have taken your time and written in the first place.
I know, now you’re legitimately screaming at the computer screen — or you’re tempted to un-follow my blog, twitter and Facebook, because I am a horrible person for saying these things about the beloved NaNoWrimo. Hang in with me, please.
The aforementioned article from the reader goes on to point out something I never even thought about.
Far more money can be made out of people who want to write novels than out of people who want to read them.
Well, I guess the never thought about part isn’t exactly correct, because you may or may not know my feelings about any non-fiction book that tells you how to make 50K or any variety of money by publishing on Kindle, or self-publishing in general. My feelings of these are much like NaNoWrimo, it’s a lot of crap (like much of the 50K words produced by some during November). This article further discusses the money making behind NaNoWrimo–wait you say, it’s a non-profit organization! They may be, but the countless other companies associated with it aren’t. Writers, or authors, shouldn’t need encouragement to write…crap. I can do that every day if I like, but when I’ve done this it has never made me a better writer. It’s made me a far worse one.
This brings me to my anti-NaNoWrimo challenge– instead of forcing yourself to write what invariably may amount to a bunch of something you cannot use–why not challenge yourself to write good, quality work the first time (or at least editable work)?
Oh! You shall stagnant my creativity!
No, I’m asking you to write something worthy of reading. Editing as you write is far more of a challenge than sitting and writing something you’ll never be able to use.
I’m doing that challenge now, and let me tell you, I’ve never felt so compelled to write. So what are the steps to this challenge?
1. Download Wattpad
2. Outline something — and I don’t mean write out a whole thing, hell I don’t care if you outline completely in your head. For writing something like this, I find it beneficial to at least know what your beginning, middle, end, plot and characters look like. That’s a huge thing for me to say, because I have never in my life outlined a story…until now.
3. Write what you can each day or every other day–or every three days. This isn’t about quantity; it’s about quality. As you write, try to slow yourself down enough to edit the words as they flow from your beautiful mind to your fingertips.
4. Go back and read that chapter you’ve written and look at the quality–edit out anything you know doesn’t work. See how many words you typed out and then forget about that number. It doesn’t matter here.
5. Come back and yell at me, debate with me, maybe still end up hating me, here on this post.
6. At the end of November, you may be shocked to learn you didn’t write 50k, but you wrote 30k of good quality work.
Where did this challenge come from? It was inspired by my father who once told me:
If you become good enough at writing, you’ll be editing at the same time. You’ll save yourself time by not rushing and by doing it right the first time. Sure, it’s not going to be 100% perfect, but instead of re-writing an piece you’ll just be fixing little errors like misusing you’re versus your–and you’ll realize your common mistakes and stop making them. The results — a piece that is as beautiful on paper as it was inside your head.
Are you reading for National Write Beauty Month?
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Write Beauty, my friends.