It’s so much better when we take our time

I have participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every year since I first learned of its existence in 2010 and most years, met the 50k word count goal.  I value this month for many reasons that I won’t list here but I primarily participate because it helps to improve overall productivity  as well as gives me a much needed degree of accountability.

NaNoWriMo forces me to insert butt in chair every day and because of the required word count that mean sacrifices, e.g., family time, play time, housework.  One month out of a year, okay, I’ll make that sacrifice for my art, but I  cannot realistically write that way the rest of the year.

Besides, as Chris Abani so blithely dismissed during my VONA workshop, the first draft of your work in progress is, “just notes”.  NOTES??!! I thought.  Two-hundred and twenty-nine pages of NOTES?

Yep, pretty much.  So, at the end of NaNoWriMo 2013, I had two hundred and twenty-nine pages of a beginning, middle and most-of-the-end, and when I looked at them for the first time in January, I finally understood what he meant.  I’d anticipated that revisions would be a breeze and would involve primarily spell check and line edits.

Not so.

You’ve heard the saying “writing is revision” or “writing comes with the re-write”?  I’ve found out just how true this is.  While I skipped, flipped and jumped to have a near-completed draft last November, the REAL story, the one that’s been in my head for the past couple years?  That story emerged in my revisions.

This is a much slower process and does not always involve sitting my butt in the chair for hours on end.  Sometimes, ideas comes while I’m at work, sitting in church, talking with my kid, bathing the dog.  There may be days when I never reach my computer and there may be days that I never leave my office but I am ALWAYS writing and revising.

I chose not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year though it was very tempting, I always get a huge headstart on whatever project I’m working on.   And it is for this reason, that I will continue to participate in future years.  However, the real work happens now on a two week schedule with accountability coming from my critique group, MemphiSlores.  Think of it as the difference between a microwave vs a slow cooker or crockpot.

Two recent articles helped to clarify this process for me.  The first one,  “Like Slow Food, Slow Writing Deepens the Flavor of Your Words” (Grub Street).

I began to notice that the final version of each message illuminated truths about myself and my situation that were not clear in the first draft. This slower writing process allowed elements to come forth that could not be revealed in a quick Facebook post or even a conversation. –Marie Pechet

Today’s Daily Post, talks about “Gestation of Ideas: On Vertical Writing and Living”, an article by Nick Ripatrazone.  He makes several good points but the one that struck a chord in me was his explanation about horizontal vs. vertical writing.

Vertical writing, in contrast, values depth over breadth. Stories are written when they are ready to be written; they are not forced into existence by planning or excessive drafting. Horizontal writing seeks to move across the page; vertical writing seeks to dig into the page, to value the building of character and authenticity over the telegraphing of plot. The folly of horizontal writing is that it convinces writers that fiction writing operates on a production model. If they simply sit at the desk and pound out page after page, the story will come.  –Nick Ripatrazone

There is no absolute right or wrong process when it comes to writing a novel, I imagine the ways are as varied as the writers who produce them.  Vertical writing (how cool is it that it has a name?!) is how I write.

What about you?

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