I have a goal: to write a shitty first draft.
“But,” I hear you say, “That makes no sense. Shouldn’t your goal be to write a really excellent fist draft?”
No, that’s actually a problem for me. I blame all the business writing I used to do. I might have an outline first, and a proof read for grammar and punctuation later, but the majority of the business writing I did was a single-draft exercise. I wrote it, I formatted it, I published it to the business community.
But, with fiction, you have to get it on the page. Agonizing over sentence structure or whether you already used this adjective two paragraphs ago will prevent you from ever getting to the end. As will blocking issues – was my hero sitting or standing? Did he already put down/pick up his drink? Or even things like the names of secondary characters—if you’re checking back to see what the bartender’s name was the last time your characters were n this night club, you’re not WRITING.
The AlphaSmart helps, because I can’t easily scan back. But once I load my work into the actual document, I have the tendency to proof the last bit before moving on. Which is not the same as moving on!
For me, just getting the novel on the page is a huge challenge. And, once a year at least, I employ the ULTIMATE FIRST DRAFT TOOL.
It’s National Novel Writing Month ( NaNoWriMo to the initiates).
Every November, over 100,000 novelists unite with the common goal of producing (at least) a 50,000 word draft of a novel in a single month. The idea is that you rearrange your schedule, stock the refrigerator full of frozen dinners, tell your significant other that he/she is now in charge of laundry, vacuuming and feeding the offspring, get off the on-line dating sites, Tivo episodes of Survivor, and tell your mother in law that someone else will have to cook Thanksgiving Dinner this year. You carve out as much time as you can – get up early, stay up late, or whatever you have to do, and WRITE.
If you live near other NaNo-ers (and you probably do) you can attend write-ins, where a group of you get together and write. I’ve posted some scheduled around the Hartford, Connecticut area HERE—we’d love to see you.
I’ve NaNoed before (yes, it can be used as a verb). In fact, Angel of Mercy, my 2008 Mira release, was my 2007 NaNoWriMo project. But I still didn’t do a very good job on the rough draft thing and, to be honest, already had the first 3 chapters done on November 1st.
This year, I am planning to do a true NaNoWriMo. I have a book under contract that I have not yet started, and I have the detailed outline that my editor approved for the contract. I am not going to write one word of it until the kick-off write in on November 1st, where I am going to sit down at a table at Borders Books in Manchester, Connecticut, and type, probably into my AlphaSmart, “Chapter One.” There will be no going back, no re-writing. I will power through and type “The End” no later than November 30.
Do you think I can stick to my plan? Do I have it in me not to agonize and review and rewrite? We’ll soon find out.
Who out there is NaNoing? What’s your plan? If you already have an account, be sure to add me as a Buddy – I’m Toni Lea Andrews (When I joined NaNoWriMo, I planned to use my full name. But the book cover artists decided my name looked better on the cover without the Lea, so I shall forever be just Toni Andrews, novelist. This is how career decisions are made in the writing industry.).
If you haven’t already, sign up here.
Come on! Let’s all make like a Nike ad and Just Do It.