NaNoWriMo is an amazing goal for any writer who wishes to one day write a novel. That novel may be something that they write and then put away in some folder to stumble upon in a few years, or it may be something that they will continue to write, edit, and eventually publish. I hope that my novel will be more of the latter. That being said, I have learned so much from NaNoWriMo about the REAL novel writing process, and this is very limited knowledge, from only one month of real hard core writing... Take it from me, the process is not glamorous or sweepingly romantic- there are moments of course, but those occur on the inspiration roller coaster high, most of the time when you’re sitting in a cozy cafe, coffee in hand and Frank Sinatra softly playing in the background. That’s about the time that you blink, and see that your hair is frizzy, you smell like something slightly burnt, and notice that you have a fantastic 154 words, with only 99,846 words left. You are small, and trying to achieve a goal that many others have tried and failed ahead of you. On the good days you sometimes hear the ghosts of authors past cheering you on, “What’s that Tolkien? Lewis? Austen?” and then other times you just hear the washing machine and the car alarm going off in your neighbor’s driveway.
I learned that writing is largely a process, and less of an inspiration explosion going off inside your head, trickling out through your fingertips. It often times means sitting down somewhere relatively comfortable (or uncomfortable, whichever you might prefer) and writing about your character’s irritation with Zombies (oh, you had better believe I did) or maybe perhaps coming up with a model of your character’s bedroom, which will allow you to accurately describe every detail as it’s right in front of you, but not accomplish any real purpose at all. (Oh yes, I had a productive month!)
It’s hard, and sometimes really, really sucky, and you will absolutely NOT want to write any more.
The process is also REALLY REALLY LONG. Yes, I wrote the bulk of a novel in 30 days, but I still have tens of thousands of words to write before I even complete the first draft.
In movie terms, (who doesn’t love movies?) the first draft is the equivalent of some dude (or dudette) thinking, “hmm. I like this idea that just popped into my mind!” and then scribbling that idea on a napkin, or whatever is handy. The information written on the napkin is changed, edited, unused, tossed away, before it becomes a usable building block. That is the first draft. From that napkin scribble, plot, characters, and a story need to develop; this is REALLY where you no longer recognize the brief note that you wrote down some time before. There is then the arduous process of pre-production, producing the napkin scribble for the screen, finding directors and producers, and people to play your napkin scribble characters, shooting the film, and editing, and... it’s a lot.
The biggest question I seem to be getting lately is “when can I read it?” (it being my novel) My response is to laugh, look down at my napkin, and laugh some more.