NaNoWriMo, Week One.

I have survived my first week of Nano. More than survived, actually, I am far enough ahead that I can take an hour off to blog.

I’d like to start by pointing out that while some successful authors pitch in for NaNo with pep talks, there are others who decry the process. As one put it to me on Twitter, “I hate it with the power of ten thousand suns.” I didn’t ask why, it seemed to be a sore point. But I can imagine lots of reasons to disapprove, many of them valid. Now that I’ve begun to try it, I’m prepared to offer my take on it.

Plus: I can do it. After months of procrastination, I am writing every morning. I usually start at around four AM. Kids, don’t try this at home, it’s not for everyone. I am by nature an extremely early riser, and after I feed the cat, who is also an early riser, this is my quiet time. I have somehow written over twelve thousand words this week. If I were to look back at my first novel, I imagine it would have taken months to reach a similar word count.

Minus: It’s awful. I am churning out drivel by the bushel. For almost everyone, NaNo is about quantity, not quality. It is faster to tell than to show. MiniPlus: Showing uses more words than telling, if my brain comes out to play.

Plus: I am habitually lazy about quantity, and in the usual course of things, I often stop when I get stuck. I walk away from the keyboard to mull things over. I’m good at mulling. I can mull for days. NaNo puts an end to that. I have learned a new technique. If I get stuck on something that I need to check, like the name of a minor character from the first novel (I’m writing a sequel this year) I just bracket it in dollar signs $Antonio$ and keep going. Man, that is liberating. No more losing the scene while I look stuff up. Yesterday, I cheated by emailing my volcano guy, but I kept writing anyway, throwing in whatever pre-eruption signs worked best for the plot. When he replied, I found I had done quite well.

Minus: After three days of peckering away on my keyboard, and some five thousand words into the story, I realized I had been mostly writing backstory. Sure, it had character, setting and conflict. It had world-building details left over from book one, and the characters were building new relationships based on the outcome of the first book. But it lacked action relevant to the plot. Very little of these first five thousand words will be in later versions of the story.  Ouch.

Plus: but I had an AHA! moment when I typed this sentence:

It wouldn’t save her, but Raven tightened her harness anyway.

There’s a good chance that will be the opening line of the novel. I had another AHA moment today. I need my main character to get fired and re-instated. This morning, I realized this could happen if a crisis cranks up the workload for her colleagues. Her transgressions can be overlooked in an emergency. The first novel, Avians of Celadon, ends with my young heroine catalyzing a rescue after a volcanic eruption. No good deed goes unpunished, so the second novel, Bandits of Celadon, looks at the ensuing refugee crisis: a descent into lawlessness and um, banditry.

Conclusions, if we can call them that one quarter of the way in. What I have written, and much of what I will write in the next three weeks, will not be art. The best parts will serve as a rough draft to build a real novel on. The worst parts will go into the virtual shredder of shame. But it’s writing that wouldn’t have happened without National Novel Writing Month. For me, it’s worthwhile.

That’s all the time I can spare for blogging today. I have a novel to write.

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