Beating the post-NaNo Blues – Part 2

I posted yesterday about the way writers can take that old manuscript and re-cast it. Not just revising, but re-inventing.

Which brings me to NaNoWriMo. I sometimes wonder what happens to the results of so many hours of labour poured into thousands of manuscripts around the US – and the world – every November. Do manuscripts end up sitting in virtual drawers, forgotten? Do authors re-write later? Do authors look back and feel despondent? Proud?

The reality of writing is that 50,000 words blasted out in four weeks – and believe me, that is daunting even for a professional author – is going to be pretty rough. It’ll need work. And maybe, after a month’s slog, enthusiasm might well need re-kindling. My take? Try this:

1. Stick the MS in the proverbial drawer for a while.

2. Come back to it. Re-read it critically – but only for structure, for character arc, for plot. Make notes.

3. Go through a planning exercise – here are some pointers. Re-cast the necessary content.

4. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper or empty file, and begin writing. That’s right. From scratch. This is the important part. Why? Because by starting with a blank sheet you’re giving yourself an opportunity for all those ideas fizzing around from the planning to re-express themselves. It’s something that used to happen by default in the old typewriter days – there was always the opportunity to re-cast while you were making a clean copy of a pen-and-ink amended typescript.

5. Today, re-typing doesn’t mean re-typing everything, necessarily. Open the original NaNo file – and copy across the elements that DID work, or re-cast them as it suits.

Yes, it’s likely to be a lot of work…but that is what writing is about. And the reality of books – which I’ll be exploring in the next little while – is that they have less to do with word count than they do with being an organic entity, a means of taking a reader on a journey. They are also a journey for the author, and those journeys always start with a single step.

Does this work for you? Did you join NaNoWriMo this year? How did you fare?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012

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9 comments on “Beating the post-NaNo Blues – Part 2

  1. NaNo went pretty well for me this year — 73,000+ words, and that’s maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of the whole story. So I’m definitely putting that aside for a week or two to recover.

    I remember when I first consciously set out to be a writer I used pen and paper, but that didn’t last long. I took typing in the 9th grade and it’s the only truly useful skill I ever learned in school. Which is why I grinned at your photo above! My first typewriter was a little manual portable my parents found for me somewhere — I used that for years, and then one birthday I got an Olympus manual that I used all through college and for years after.

    Revision? Still one of the tools I’m crafting! But it seems that the last three or four years that seems to be coming along.

    Actually after reading your last post I took out one of the MSs that have been mouldering (well, can a digital file actually moulder?) in my MyDocs folder and looked through it…just to stir the pot!

    • Glad to have been of assistance – and good on you for getting that scale of work out in NaNo. That is seriously impressive output!

      I still have the last typewriter I owned – in fact, the photo on this post is the very machine. The ‘style’ of writing I did on it is very different from what I do on a word processor & one of the things I miss is that “from fresh” re-write opportunity when re-keying.

  2. Alexandra says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear. This year’s nano for me (my fourth “win” actually) was to be 50k in order to finish a nano I’d done 2 years ago which while I had gotten to the word count, had not gotten to the conclusion of the story and had never been revisited until the last week in October of this year. I managed to achieve both the word count and the completion of the story arc this year so a definite win. The problem is that there are still too many holes and after having seen a popular movie on my plane ride home on Friday, I realized that the actual plot needs more originality if not for the plot then for the details and characters. I think starting with a blank page using what I love from my novel is just what I need to do so that this is not another case of my story languishing never to see the light again.

    Thanks for your take on how to move forward and yes, not let all the effort just turn to dust or mold. :)

  3. naimeless says:

    I did join, though I sort of took it on knowing the results would probably not be 50,000 words. instead, I’ve got a clean copy of a short work of fiction and 4 more in the same series started.

    For me it wasn’t so much the word count as it was writing down a whole complete work, and not just starting several that sit in proverbial drawers.

    • Quite right – and I’ve got some posts coming up this very week that reflect that ‘unity of concept’ behind books. It’s an approach I’ve been taking for years with my books and, for me at least, it works as a device for getting results far better than one eye on the word-count guilt-o-meter.

  4. lesa7515 says:

    This is good advice – and I’m going to try and follow it. I tried something different this year by writing two novellas with linked characters. The first one is rough but shows promise and took 21 of November’s days. Alas, the second project has bare bones and is filled with utter rubbish. If nothing, it illustrated how little I know about the subject matter and how much research I need to do in order to write the story. I like the month of feverish writing – it’s fun, as long as people remember that December is not the month-of-publishing-madly.

    • Thank you – glad you liked the post. I agree, December’s not the month to publish. December’s the month for authors to revise! And I am sure there is a lot of it going on around the world right now.

  5. L. Palmer says:

    That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the draft of the novel I’m working on. If the plot and character arcs aren’t working, why go back and fine tune the prose? Falling in love with a scene isn’t worth while if it doesn’t fit into the plot.

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