Is NaNoWriMo Helping or Hurting My Writing?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017

Even though we are well into July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I am spreading my attention between three projects.  First, I am helping people discover Modern Persuasion.  It takes time to do promotion and marketing.  Second, I am editing Phi Alpha Pi (book 2).  Third, I am writing book 3’s 3rd draft.  My goal has been to double the final wordcount after draft 2 from 30,000 words to 60,000 words.  It means touching and editing 30,000 words, but writing 60,000 new ones.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017

Writing 30,000 new words isn’t hard.  I am taking a secondary character and making her a primary one.  She has a very different voice than the original main character.  Plus, I have to make my original primary character a little more likable.  A lot of the later might happen in editing this draft, but I am enjoying bringing a new point of view to the story.  In someways, I feel like I am writing 2 different versions of the same person.  One is angry, entitled, and cynical.  The other is open, curious, and engaged in the world.  I can’t wait for people to get to meet both of them and decide who gets the job of Devil.

The promotion has also been very enjoyable.  Having spent nearly 2 years writing this blog and engaged in the publishing community, I feel pretty comfortable promoting and getting advice about it.  It isn’t a lack of idea or knowledge that keeps me busy, but the action on making things happen.  It’s busy work that is engaging and paying off.

It is the editing of Phi Alpha Pi that had led me to realize something pretty important and life changing: National Novel Writing Month is hurting my writing.

I am not saying it’s bad or hurtful for writers.  I am saying: it is hurting my writing.  My writing and mine alone… actually, maybe not mine alone, but that’s not what I am writing about.  The point is, I have outgrown the challenge of National Novel Writing Month.

I noticed this in April and have been turning it over in my head.  I realized that writing 50,000 words has not been a challenge for a very long time.  I do it easily.  I can type quickly and come up with enough content to drive me to the goal with time to spare.  I am actually a little bored by the idea of writing to 50,000 words come November.  I spoke with some people about this, but the sense I came away with was to find a way to increase the challenge.

Then I started editing Phi Alpha Pi.  My editor identified what hadn’t been caught with Modern Persuasion.  Namely, I am wordy.  You might notice it here too.  NaNoWriMo has trained me to write to maximize word count. Look through this entry because it happens without even trying.  How many times have I typed ‘I am” instead of ‘I’m?’  I counted it about 7 times… at least.  I am (another one) writing to a meaningless metric of 50,000 words.  Does 50,000 words really make a novel? Are those 50,000 words a good novel? Are those 50,000 words making a good story? The answer to all those questions is: not necessarily.  What my editor helped me see was that I’m too focused on the word count and not enough on the story.

I’ve become a slave to a metric designed to get people writing, not one to evolve a writer.  It works beautifully for that, but I can’t keep pretending I’m a beginning writer who doesn’t know what she is doing.  I do know what I’m doing (to a degree) and now my job is to keep the knife sharp by growing my skills.

Moving forward, especially this year, I am going to focus on breaking my bad writing habits.  It is going to take time to do that.  I have the next phase of my Austen modernizations to work on.  I’m going to focus November on simply writing either the detailed outline of my next project or a first draft of something.  I don’t want to give up the focused writing of April, July, and November.  I just don’t want to put the emphasis on the number of words.  I won’t be thinking about any metric other than finishing the project at hand.

Side note, yes I did go through and change a number of I am to I’m.  I have to break the habits here as well.

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