Wednesday, 23 November 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

Yes, it's done. 57,380 words in 21 days. Phew!  Hero and heroine have overcome all the obstacles and conflicts I threw at them and reached their 'Happy Ever After' ending.

But when I say it's 'done', all I really mean is that the FIRST draft is done. I still have a lot more work to do.

In this month’s UK ‘Writing’ magazine, one publisher says that most aspiring writers make their first error by submitting far too soon without realising how much re-writing needs to be done.

He lists a ‘10-draft’ process: typing out a rough draft, tightening the structure, developing the characters, improving the dialogue, working on the language, restructuring some parts, adding layers of conflict, improving crucial opening pages, more work on character development and finally proof-reading for mistakes.

A pretty scary list, right? I’m not sure it would actually take 10 drafts, since some could be combined. But the important point is that a first draft is very much a ‘first’ and can’t be considered as a manuscript which is ready for submission.

Normally, even in my first drafts, I tend to agonise over language and dialogue, trying to get it right the first time. However, having taken part in NaNowriMo for the first time, I’ve surprised myself by being able to abandon my ‘inner editor’ as I sprint-wrote the whole story in 21 days.

Okay, so it was pre-plotted (unlike my normal pantser method) as I was trying a rewrite/updating of a novel I wrote in the 1970’s. It did require some serious updating, especially my style, and also some of the content, since the world has changed since the 1970’s. Cell phones and email probably present the trickiest problem in updating, it’s so much easier now for characters to contact each other.

Even so, I’ve been aware that it was what I call ‘lazy’ writing. I ignored my usual careful honing of words to convey the exact meaning I wanted, I let adverbs and speech tags slip by, I repeated my favourite words and phrases (probably ad nauseam), my heroine’s heart did so many jumps and jerks, she’s  in danger of an imminent heart attack. I also ignored the detailed research which can often hold me up for a long time. My mantra became ‘I’ll fix that later.’

But, at the end of 21 days, I have a first draft. The hero and heroine finally got to their happy ever after ending. However, I’m nowhere near that ending.

Could I submit this as it is now? No way. It’s the first time I’ve ever written a real ‘rough draft’ and, believe me, it IS rough! I know I still have a HUGE amount of work to do. 10 drafts? Maybe that’s what it will need.

How many drafts do you write, and what do you concentrate on improving with each draft?


  1. Oh you are so inspirational! I've not NaNo'd for a day now and feel like I'm falling way behind but have had too many other commitments. Am up at the beach house catching up with family so writing has to take a back seat while I enter the 'real' world awhile. I agree with the subbing too early, although I think I'm overdoing the things you mention. Hard to know when enough's enough!


  2. well done! Having a complete draft, even if it does need a lot of editing, is a very strong position to work from.


  3. Hi Denise - real life does have a habit of getting in the way, but shivering here in the cold UK, I envy you at your beach house!
    I tend to over-do the editing, too. Sometimes it's difficult to know just when to stop tweaking!

  4. Thanks, mood - I'm now going to take a week (or more!) away from it, and hopefully come back to it with fresh eyes - and enthusiasm too!

  5. That's an amazing word count in so few days. Congratulations!

    I have recently taken six/seven drafts to complete my first novel and I'm fully aware that it isn't complete. If it gets accepted at submission there will still be a lot of work ahead.

    Wishing you lots of luck as you continue with this.

  6. Rebecca, best of luck with submitting your novel.