One of the biggest challenges that writers face as part of NaNoWriMo is the urge to rewrite. After that first day of writing, you sit back and wonder: did I choose the right story? Am I telling it from the proper point of view? I think I did way too much info-dumping. The scene is crap–I need to write the entire thing over!
Do not do this!
NaNoWriMo is not about writing a perfect, or even near-perfect novel. It’s about getting a story draft down at a marathon pace. If you start to second-guess yourself along the way and begin rewriting, you will quickly fall behind and falling behind can lead to doom! Too far behind and you lose your will to continue. Of course, all of this can be avoided by resisting the urge to rewrite–something that I know is not easy. But here is the trick that I use–and it has worked for me in two previous NaNoWriMos:
Write your 1,667 words and don’t look back. Hold your doubts until you’ve met your quota. Once you meet your quota, go back and jot down some notes about how you will fix what you just wrote in the next draft. Don’t fix them, just write notes about how you will do it. Since I use Scrivener for my fiction writing, I make use of Scrivener’s “Project Notes” feature to capture these notes. I’ll make an entry for each date that I have concern. And, yes, last night, after writing more than 2,000 words, I realized I had a major problem. But rather than rewrite, I jotted down some notes. Here are what those notes look like:
And since that might show up a little small on the screen, here is what it says:
After writing the opening scene, it occurs to me that the epistolary form isn’t going to work for this story. I think I was going for something like Stephen King has in his novella “1922” but as I wrote this evening, it seemed like the narrator was too distant from the action and holding too much back. So…
In the next draft I think it should be a straight first-person narrative from the father’s POV and start with his meeting with Merrick as opposed to the lead-in I did in the first 300 words or so of the opening scene.
Too much info-dumping in the second scene but that will get worked out in the second draft. I’ll make the research the narrator does much more of an exploration than the narrative dump that is currently is.
Otherwise, some good stuff tonight, some so-so stuff.
I wrote that almost as soon as I finished last night–even before I wrote my blog post. Getting those notes down made me feel better because I identified what i thought were problems for the next draft, and can now move on without worrying that I’ll forget about them–and without spending precious time rewriting the scenes during NaNoWriMo.
It works for me–it might work for you, too, if you find yourself feeling that urge to rewrite. Consider giving it a try.
This is a useful trick that I’m already implementing on Google Drive, which I use for my writing. In my case, I just put a comment and write what I need down. Since I write two or even three different documents like these a day (for different “scenes”), I don’t see my comments in front of me all the time and I forget about them quickly – which is good.
Good advice! I had a productive Day Two and logged in 2605 words. At first I only had a glimmer of what the first scene would look like. I struggled and threw down some sketches. I took a break. When I came back, the scene showed up in full detail. Rather than go back and edit the first attempt, I just started writing the new version. When it comes time to edit, I will delete the first effort. Just another option to consider!
Ah, nice work, Pam. I just wrapped up my second day, this time with nearly 1,800 words on the day. I’m a hair shy of 4,000 after 2 day, so you’ve definitely got a jump on me, although I was very pleased with both my pacing and quality of storytelling today.