The Rabbit and the Hare

Yesterday wrapped up National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to pound out the rough draft of a fifty-thousand-word novel in thirty days.  Anything to get people to write or think creatively is an epic win in my book.  Congratulations to everyone who toughed it out and made it through to the finish line. 

I don’t know how many authors embark on the journey versus the number who actually finish, but I’d guess around two to one.  And that’s probably being a bit generous.  While it’s important to start a new project, it’s far more so to see it through to the end.  I’m sure many of those half-finished novels will be taken up again at some point (maybe even for next year’s NaNoWriMo).  I’ve never personally joined in the festivities, because I believe writers shouldn’t need encouragement to write.

If NaNoWriMo is the literary equivalent of a mad dash, I much prefer a leisurely (but diligent) pace.  Slow and steady wins the race, at least for me.  When I’m working on a project I’ll write four pages per day, five or six if the story’s going smoothly, in addition to editing and correcting another six to eight.  Within three to four months I’ll have an edited draft of a new book.

Of course some authors can go faster.  I know some who claim to churn out upwards of five to ten thousand words in a day.  I’m a bit dubious of such claims; that’s not writing so much as typing.  While I don’t think those folks are lying, I have to wonder how many of those forty pages are worth keeping.  The trade-off for such a slap-dash rough draft is that one is forced to write multiple drafts.  By going faster they’re actually causing more work for themselves in the long run.

While I don’t write that much each day, I do write every day when I’m committed to a project.  That’s a vital distinction many beginning writers have difficulty grasping.  One cannot wait for one’s Muse to arrive.  One must tempt her out by showing up to work and being prepared.  And even if she never shows, a writer needs the confidence to know he or she can produce decent work anyway. 

When I’m coming toward the close of a book I tend to write more each day, maybe eight to ten pages, as I’m swept away in the current of the book’s impending climax.  Over the years I’ve discovered that although I may be able to write more in a twenty-four-hour period, anything beyond about 2,500 words is rewritable junk.  My creative well runs dry at the ten-page mark.

So while I may not have written fifty thousand words last month, I did manage to produce a clean 30,000+, as I did the month before and likely will this month as well.  And if you prefer screenplays to novels, check out Script Frenzy in April.  It’s run by the same folks who do NaNoWriMo, and I may be tempted to participate in that next spring.

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