The year 2015 will be my third year as a National Novel Writing Month 2015 (NaNoWriMo) participant. The first time was in 2010, but I “lost,” meaning I didn’t reach 50,000 words by midnight on December 1. The second time participating was in 2013. I “won,” just making a little bit past 50,000 words by deadline, much like a baseball player sliding into home base. I want to get more vivid with the sports play-by-play wordage to describe this achievement, but I’m not much of a sports person, so I can’t.
So why do this for the third time? Heck, why do this at all? I like the thrill of writing a novel, the push, the energy, the thought that I’m going to churn out 50,000 words in one month. Some people cringe at the thought. I’m one of those people right now. But I look forward to this project I’m working on. It’s a manuscript I’ve wanted to work on for quite some time. My novel is a satirical fantasy about the media.
About first drafts … there are some people who go into NaNoWriMo expecting to produce something at least halfway decent, as if by magic, if one produces something decent enough for publishing, he/she has the natural gift to be an author, or that the story idea/premise/plot/characters have been well conceived. Take it from someone who does this for a living, writing for over 20 years and at least 10 for a living: no first draft will ever be close to perfect, no matter how much or how little planning, outlining or researching is done, no matter how spectacular the premise is, no matter how much the stakes are raised, or no matter many characters are killed off. That’s not to say the author can’t improve the manuscript. That’s what happens in the revision process … in the revision process … in the revision process. As you can see, revising and editing take more cycles to go through than the first draft stage. For the initial draft, just worry about getting those freakin’ words on paper!
As for the researching, outlining and planning, they’re great to do. I do those too; as a matter of fact, I have them on file for this year’s NaNoWriMo project. But the research notes and outlines are meant to be guidelines that direct me toward my story writing goals. If a character organically wants to go a different path than what I originally planned, that’s a good thing. It means the character has come to life and wants to determine his/her fate.
So no matter what you write, whether you’re in NaNoWriMo this year or any year, remember that a first draft is only the beginning of the writing process. The revision process takes much longer and many stages than the first draft phase. In the end, if you write every single day and can’t help buy write every single day, and if you have that discipline to treat it as a business or a job (not as a hobby you dabble in every now and then whenever you feel like it), then yeah, you’re a writer.
By the way, if you’re going to look me up on NaNoWriMo.org, my screen name is dorothypkr465.
Teresa Edmond-Sargeant is an Orlando, FL-based journalist, author, poet and editor. A former staff writer in North Jersey, Edmond-Sargeant won two NJ Press Association Awards and is now a reporter for The Apopka Chief, a community newspaper in Central Florida. She is the author of a poetry book “How Fate’s Confusion Connects” and three Amazon Kindle short story ebooks: “Eve the First,: A Fairy Tale Revision,” “Ethical Strains” and “An Estella Exclusive”.