Hard Lessons | The Writing Site of R K Athey

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMoThis year I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as we call it. NaNoWriMo and the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program are both run by the Office of Letters and Light, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity. Donations help us bring free creative writing programs for kids and adults in over 500 cities and towns, 3,000 classrooms, and 200 libraries every year.

Writing 50,000 words in a month is a difficult chore. I’ve had the idea for a sequel to The New Moon Murders running around in my head for a while and decided to commit it electronic paper and ink during November. It was an interesting challenge and I’m almost done, having only half a chapter to go. While my effort on The Dark Man Murders is almost complete for NaNoWriMo, my work on it is far from over.

Writing is like building a house. First you lay the foundation with an idea. That takes a while to set. Then you frame it with an outline. Once you’re sure where the walls are going, you start wiring the plot and plumbing the subplots.  These you wall over with scene descriptions and dialog.

The self editing phase I’m about to embark upon adds fixtures and trim. While you can sit in a house without trim and fixtures, you have to look at a bunch of holes in the wall where lights should be and you have no way to turn on the water. You don’t see the plot, subplots, witty dialog, or anything else. All you can see are the holes. A writer must read the his/her story again and again adding bits here and there to make it better and fill in the holes. The problem is, at some point you stop seeing the words an only see the story.

That’s when you harass your friends to read and comment on your story. Unless they’re very good at grammar and spelling, they won’t find all the problems. So then you bring in an editor to show you where all the flaws are. You’d be surprised at how many they find. But even they won’t find everything. So then you need a proof reader but even then you aren’t done. No matter how many people read your new story (which at this point is about a year old) the buyer is going to see flaws.

So here I sit after a one month effort spent in Nation Novel Writing Month. My house has a foundation, walls, plumbing, and wiring but it is, in a sense, unreadable. Better said, it won’t be enjoyed by the readers because of all the holes in the sheet rock and a lack of counters, shelving, and sinks. Heaven forbid if the reader should need to use the restroom. I’m about to install all of that and only have four days left to complete it before I submit the novel. It’s a daunting task.

It’s been an amazing effort. I didn’t know I could write the 50,000+ words required by the contest in such a short amount of time. It’s a good feeling, though. And while every other writing chore has been on hold for this long month, I hope I’m emerging as a better, faster writing who was able to tell a good story.

Now, back to the story to finish that last chapter.

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