Saturday, November 15, 2008

National Novel Writing Month

I'm taking part in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, NaNo for even shorter. The goal is to write a 1st draft of a novel, at 50K words. That's about 1666 or so words a day. The NaNo folks stress quantity over quality, at least for this month. Next month will be spent revising and filling up all of those lovely and deep dark holes. The aim is to get that 1st draft down on paper, and outta your head.

My goal is to write a 1st draft of my middle grade novel that I started in my 4th semester with Rita Williams-Garcia. I'm aiming for 30-35K words. That's about 1000 or so words per day. That's a lot for me. I usually write 500 words or less, or most days this year, zero!

Some freelance work fell through for November, so I signed up, not really knowing if I could pull off 1000 words/day. I jumped, and I'm glad I did.

After one week behind me, I've realized how freeing this process has been. When I was at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and writing for my packets, my 20-40 pages of creative work, my ego got in the way. I wrote, re-wrote, and re-wrote again. You're supposed to do that, but I worried about what my advisor would think; I worried whether my work was workshop-critique-worthy… I let all those "worries" get in the way, and so wrote very slowly.

After I graduated, with no deadlines looming, I wrote even slower.

NaNo says not to delete any words. Fine. The writing comes out clunky, chunky, holey-moley, and just plain bad. All rules of grammar and show vs. tell are broken. And that's great. The words are on the page, finally, to tinker with later. For now, just write. I'm getting out of the way. Move, I tell myself. Move!

And I did. I've been averaging 1000-1450 words/day. I didn't know I could do that.

NaNo also sends out these pep talks from authors. I received one from Katherine Paterson, author of BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA, JACOB HAVE I LOVED and many other classic novels for young people. I've been fortunate to have met Katherine in San Francisco during USF's Reading the World Conference, and at Vermont College of Fine Arts where Katherine is on the board of trustees. She attended our graduation in January 2008. So I felt like she was speaking right to me. This paragraph I love and keep it nearby, all highlighted. Katherine wrote:

"I aim always to get to the end of the first draft even though all the time I'm telling myself that I'm writing nothing but garbage that no one on earth would ever want to read, especially me. But I tell myself that this poor little attempt, this garbage, deserves a chance. Just as our beautiful dog Annie, who was the runt of her litter, grew into the most beautiful, loving dog anyone would want, so there may be hope, even for this pitiful mess of words I'm accumulating. So I say to myself: Don't read back too far, don't try to start rewriting, just get to the end."

Give garbage a chance. Just get to the end. Off to do so.

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