Reflections on #NaNoWriMo2014

November is over and I’m still in shock that I finished. Not the leftover turkey, but my National Novel Writing Month project.
Winner-2014-Square-ButtonFor those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s an international online challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. As an author who doesn’t love the first drafting process, this seemed like good way to get through the unpleasant part fast, kind of like ripping off the band-aid.
I jotted down brief scene prompts on a pile of notecards and committed to writing at least 1,700 words a day. Most days, I did. At the end of the month, Red Hot Russians 3, known for the moment as “Unfinished Business,” clocked in at 50,350 words.

The story is written start to finish and flows reasonably well, but the characters are cardboard, the prose is wooden, the dialogue is clunky and embarrassing. I’m not being overly critical. It’s the nature of first drafts. A friend told me her NaNo project reads like a screenplay—heavy on the dialogue, light on everything else.
Even NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty warns that fast-written books, aren’t necessarily well-written books. If you just finished NaNoWriMo, and are less than impressed with what you’ve produced, relax.  The fun stuff, like bringing your characters to life and making your prose shine, is still to come.
In 2015, I’ll start the editing process that will turn Red Hot Russians 3 into something I’m proud to show the world, but for now, I’m following Stephen King’s advice and keeping the story of Amy and Misha to myself. I learned the hard way that putting a first draft out for public consumption is like entering your toddler in a beauty pageant. Your novel needs to develop and mature before it goes out to perform.
NaNoWriMo was an interesting experience and something I would do again. For anyone who wants to learn to write fast and bang out a first draft with a minimal amount of angst over story direction, characters, etc. it’s a great exercise. When I start revising it will be interesting to see how much of it is usable, but even if I end up throwing some out, for a month’s work, it was worth it.

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