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Inkcouragement: NaNoWriMo 2018 Is Terrible (But That’s OK?)

"I know the first draft is not going to be good, but does it have to be so bad?"

Inkcouragement: NaNoWriMo 2018 Is Terrible (But That’s OK?)

Previous check-in: November 1st

Hey, NaNoWriMo friends! How have the first 8 days treated y'all so far? Mine has fallen to the wayside quite a bit already, WHOOPS. But I'm at least determined to write a little bit every day, and then maybe by some miracle, I'll be able to catch up on word count in a hurry.

Here are some of my musings and concerns from Week 1. (You can check out my progress on NaNoWriMo or even more random thoughts on Twitter.)

•  Why are novels so many words?!?!? 1,667 words per day is hard, and then you have to write 1,667 more after that, and then again after that...

•  ... Although a Twitter stranger did reassure me that writing at this volume is like exercising a muscle, so it should get easier the more I do it? Hopefully? I do find it true for FYA things, but it's still a very different type of writing.

•  And it's also reassuring that I've seen at least a couple of awesome authors say that they're not fast writers or that they struggle with word count, too. (E. Katherine Kottaras, who just wrote a guest post for FYA; and Anna Priemaza, who's a local author and also in my book club!) 

•  In the same vein, I need to practice not freaking out when my word count dips way below the target. MARATHON, NOT SPRINT. (This is like falling behind on the Goodreads challenge, but way worse.)

•  However, my editing/efficiency brain is really fighting writing for the sake of writing. I know the first draft is not going to be good, but does it have to be so bad? It seems like it's going to be a lot of work to go through afterwards. BUT I guess that's still better than having no turd at all to polish. 

•  So I have a list of dialogue/conversations that need to happen, and then also a bunch of events/locations that I want to use. Now just to make it all fit together somehow.


•  I had always thought I'd start with the inciting incident on Day 1. But then I ended up writing the very last scene first, so at least I know how I want it to end. BUT the second: I realized that I might be running into writer's block precisely because I hadn't established the rules/framework with the inciting incident yet. That seems like it could be important, maybe.

•  I'm apparently not great at describing things, which is unfortunately the bulk of a novel. I have a lot of dialogue and banter, but I still need the words around the dialogue and banter, SIGH.

•  Also a problem in describing things is needing to act it out or otherwise visualize it. HOW DO YOU LIMBS?

•  I keep wanting to use Old People References that my teenage protagonist in the year 2018ish would not make. (E.g., rolodex, because I am apparently 93 years old.)

•  Even though I'm trying not to do time-consuming procrastinatory things that would derail and distract from actual writing, I've actually been doing a tiny, tiny bit of 'Does this make sense?' authenticity checks with friends about very peripheral details. Even though they're not super important in the big picture, they're still things that I'm not personally familiar with and therefore don't know what I'm talking about. (My imagination cannot bend the rules of reality, since I'm writing contemporary.)

•  The upcoming long weekend would be great to catch up on NaNo, buuuuuut I also have a million other things going on that pre-NaNo Me had arranged, OF COURSE. 

And now, for some words of Inkcouragement from FYA's literary agent extraordinaire and previous NaNoWriMo participant, Jennie!

Part of my job — my favorite part of the job, if you exclude the piles of gold, handsome men constantly accosting me and begging me for book recommendations/dates, and the constant flow of champagne — is being a cheerleader. So I’m getting out my glittery pink pom poms (yes, I own some) and stepping into that role for you!

Writing a book is hard, but think about all the other things you’ve done that are hard. Have you ever watched a baby on the verge of learning to walk? They are so determined. It never occurs to them not to be determined, because they also don’t realize that they’re just not very good at this whole independent human thing yet.

I want you to channel your inner toddler. What do you want? To write a book! When do you want it? RIGHT NOW! How are you going to accomplish that? By smearing anything remotely smearable on the page and calling it art! Why are you going to do that? Because the first time you do something, you’re gonna suck!

But who cares?

I might need to work on my delivery, but look: even the most practiced writer is not going to be good at writing their next book on the first try. Even Sarah Dessen has an editor.

Stop comparing your draft to finished products.

I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of queries this year, and I’ve seen novels in all states, ranging from so polished that they hardly need any work before submission, to some that are full of typos and need help, but still have promise, to those that aren’t quite ready for agent eyes. As an agent, I don’t look for perfection, and the editors I’ve talked to don’t, either. I look for a compelling plot, great writing (even if it needs a little work), and a story that I think will sell/is important for young readers to consume. There is always something to fix, no matter what stage — even post-publication, you’ll probably think of something you wished you had done instead.

So smear those words on the page now, then let your friends, your critique partners, your current/future agent, and your future editors help shape them into art.

How are y'all's NaNoWriMos going? What have been your challenges and successes? Let me know in the comments! 

Next check-in: November 16th

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.