distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

My Slow Yet Serious Attempt at NaNoWriMo (or Why I Rewrite as I Go)

My attempt at NaNoWriMo has been slow-going so far this month, but I don’t see that as a failure yet—and I won’t let myself see it as a failure if I (when I) reach November 30 without 50,000 words. (Remind me I said that.)

It’s the determination and the push to get out more words that’s worth it to me… and I’m excited about the words I do have. I’m just not one of those writers who can shove herself ahead to simply get words, any words whatsoever, down on the page so they count in my total for the day. I’ve been told again and again on Twitter that I should keep writing and not look back until next month, but I do look back and here’s why:

For me, writing is rewriting. The first words I slap down are not always the words that stay… they are often very close… but I can feel other words, better words, itching underneath them. I can’t move on when I feel that itch. While my thought is fresh, I want to keep at it until I can bring the other words—the true words—to light.

So I circle in, recasting and revamping and reordering and changing and cutting and expanding and shaping… and then I have a paragraph. A good and worthy paragraph. Many times, if the carving went very well, a paragraph could stay virtually intact into the final draft of my manuscript. I do force myself to let go and move on, or else I’d never finish more than a page. But after years of writing fiction—and after an actual, solid attempt at NaNoWriMo for real, one that ended with about 40,000 words trashed forever into the abyss where bad, ugly novel drafts go—I’ve realized that this is how I write…

In circles.

It’s annoying, sure. It’s not the fastest way, I realize. But it feels good to write this way—it feels right.

So that’s why, as of this blog post, I have only logged 3,463 words for my new novel in the first five days of this month. (In truth, I’ve typed many more words than that… I just cut a lot, too.)

Do I sound defensive? I don’t mean to. I just wanted to explain.

* Why then am I signed up for NaNoWriMo if I refuse to write the way I’m supposed to, you ask? For motivation mainly. Also for fun. Besides, I like connecting with other writers who are also buried in novels this month, as, like I said before, writing a book can be a lonely pursuit and it’s nice to know I’m not all alone in this. That’s part of why I’ve enjoyed writing dates lately… writing with other writers tends to motivate me… which is a whole other blog post.

Before I go, I don’t know if you’ve been following my blog this month, but if you’re a writer I hope you will. The theme is “What Inspires You?” and I’ve asked writers to guest blog on their writing inspirations. So far you can read about what inspires Lisa Schroeder, Tara Altebrando, and Bryan Bliss—and there are more posts coming next week.

One last thing: My “What Scares You?” book giveaway—you could win prize packs of books, some donated from Penguin and some signed by authors—closes on Monday. You still have time to enter the giveaway RIGHT HERE.

9 responses to “My Slow Yet Serious Attempt at NaNoWriMo (or Why I Rewrite as I Go)”

  1. It’s a slow and steady process – don’t give up. Stay positive. I have faith in you. Now off to spit out my own words – need to get 2,000 today or else!

  2. Yes! THIS. This is why I am so bad at NaNo (and why I’m not doing it this year, although I’m happily sucking up all the inspiration posts that are floating around.) 🙂 If I know that something is crap when I’m writing it, then I’m able to just let it go and think of it as a placeholder for something presumably decent to come. And if I write something that’s perfect the first time around, great, I can move on – but of course, that’s rare. More often than not what I’m writing is good-not-great, is almost-sort-of-there, is so-close-if-I-can-just-tweak-it-a-bit. With that writing, if I abandon it and just move on I’m not going to remember the feeling that I’m going for, and I might never find the right word. Sometimes you just have to give yourself time to be in the moment! Enjoy the process. After all, that’s why we write, yes? Not to be done, but to WRITE. 🙂

  3. As one with a terse writing style, I know the word-count goal is not the best for me. But how I admire all who rose to the November challenge.
    What I hope for you is that on December first you’d find that you have a promising book, regardless of the count. Keep trucking!

  4. I used to write the same way you do, but this summer I threw caution to the wind and turned off my internal editor. I wrote a book in 13 days. And the flow was so much better because everything stayed fresh in my mind. I think it made my writing better to do this, and I never thought I could write this way. For my current WIP, which I just finished drafting, I had to take a break after 25K, so I lost that momentum and allowed my internal editor to come back a bit. I never end up writing a novel in exactly the same way as the previous ones. They are all different, and I’m okay with that.

  5. Wether you manage to get just 500 words or 50,000 doesn’t really matter. The main thing here is that your words inspire people – and your published words really do.

    I’m also doing NaNoWriMo, and I’m giving it my all, but my work can never compare. Every time I look at something I have down and feel like it doesn’t work, I go back to reading a bit of Imaginary Girls and my fingertips are instantly sparking again. The way you use words to express a specific feeling is incredible and when I’m reading your work it’s like I’m watching a movie playing along to the words in my head. So don’t change a thing about whatever it is that you do or how you do it!


  6. Thanks for sharing this, Nova. I write best in a slow, plodding, steady way, too. I think one of the most difficult and important things about writing is figuring out what kind of writer you are and embracing it. Good for you. Anything else but being you never works nearly as well.

  7. I am Nanoing too. I am going slowly too 🙂 May Allah Almighty Bless us in our attempts!

  8. Yes! I think the biggest part of NaNo for me is the support from everyone around. I needed someone to kick my butt into gear and people are doing that. Word counts are doing that. And if I go to some write-ins, those will do that also. But, I’m moving slow (and maybe steady?) like you are. Instead of writing in circles like you do, I write the same thing three or four times. A paragraph to me can have multiple sentences in it that same the same thing, then I need to go back and revise the paragraph. I change words, I cut sentences, I move things around until finally I’m saying something just once. And now we have an extra hour today, which to some means an extra hour of writing, but to me is an extra hour reminding me that I’m sucking at word count!

    Ahhh…well…hang in there! The thing to remember is that you’re getting words down…woo hoo!

  9. I’m a slow, circling, writer as well, so it was good to read your post. It’s nice that you are tailoring the NaNo challenge to your own needs. Whatever works!

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