1667 Words a DayBy Jessica Dall
To be an author is to question yourself. At least that is what I’ve always found. No matter how much I’ve written, there are still always moment where I go back and wonder just how I made writing my profession. My husband always likes to say that writers are their own worst critics—which might be true—but that is part of the brilliance that is NaNoWriMo. By focusing on writing 1667 words every single day, there isn’t enough time to go back and start second guessing the scene you just wrote.
This November marks my eighth year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I have long pointed to NaNo as the biggest single event that got me writing again after taking a long break between writing my first (rather awful) novel in high school and actually finishing a second project in college. Before NaNo, I had spent years either jumping ship in the middle of a novel when I grew bored (generally in what I now know is the “mid-story slump”) or getting frustrated that what I saw in my head wasn’t showing up properly on the page. By getting into the excitement that was NaNoWriMo—and getting into the habit of thinking “I’ll fix it in editing”—I was able to end up with a finished product, and learn what has more or less become my motto ever since: Editing can fix most things but not an empty page.
Perhaps there are some authors out there who are literary Mozarts and are able to type something that is a masterpiece on the first try, but most writers—even published ones—aren’t like that. What shows up in a rough draft may or may not look anything like when it’s placed on a bookstore shelf. If someone were to compare the draft of my most recently published book, Raining Embers, from when it was my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel to what has now been printed, the general plot and characters would be there, yes, but it has been reworked so much since then—both by me and my editors—that it would nearly seem they were two different books. With its sequel (2014’s NaNo novel) it is quite literally a different book, as I rewrote ninety-nine percent of it after November, using a few lines here and there to make the story flow better. Does the fact that I was able to keep so little from November make me question what many NaNoWriMo detractors point to as being NaNo’s push for “quantity over quality”? Not at all. If I hadn’t gotten the story down in the first place, I never would have learned what did and didn’t work—and would very likely still be struggling to get something finished at all since what I’d have wouldn’t have been “right.”
So, for anyone who is struggling to get past nerves or frustration that what is ending up on the page isn’t what’s in their head, NaNoWriMo can be a godsend. Do your best to turn off your own inner critic and just get the words down on the page. Even if you read them back and they are as bad as you thought—which I find is rare to start with—you are in a better place than you were staring at a blank page. All you have to do is give yourself permission to try without judging anything as a failure before its time.
Raining Embers by Jessica Dall
|Raining Embers by Jessica Dall|
Palmer Tash always follows the path of least resistance. He has an unusual disability involving his hearing. But in theocratic Latysia, being different isn’t a good thing, so he conceals his problem.
|Author Jessica Dall|
Jessica Dall is the author of such novels as Off Book and The Copper Witch along with a number of short stories that have appeared in both literary magazines and anthologies. When not writing, she works as an editor and creative writing teacher in Washington, DC.
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