This is the time of year when I’d normally be gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I’ve done the 50,000-words-in-a-month challenge for four years in a row now and met my goal every time. It’s become a part of my annual routine and I look forward to the craziness, the wild energy, the self-imposed stress of November — not to mention the cameraderie with other writers and the sense of accomplishment at the end. I think I’d feel a little lost without it.
This year I’ll find out.
Yes, I’ve decided not to write 50,000 words in November of this year. This moment of sanity was brought to me by my good friend Kerry, whom I turned on to NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. She has been a dedicated NaNoWriMist ever since, but this summer she told me she wasn’t going to do NaNo this year. She said that doing it has left her with a backlog of unfinished, unrevised manuscripts and she didn’t need any more of those, so she was going to take a break.
“Blasphemy!” I said, but it got me thinking (as blasphemy so often does…)
I, too, have a backlog of unpolished, unpublished manuscripts. One of my greatest strengths as a writer is that I can write a lot very quickly, but it’s also a weakness because I would rather produce first drafts of new work than take the time and care needed to polish and complete the ones I’ve already got. I know writers who prefer the pre-writing research and writers who prefer the post-writing revision, but I just like actually writing and have little patience with the other stages of the process. I’ll never run out of ideas for Great New Stories I could tell, but if they never get polished and published, nobody will ever know about them.
My first NaNoWriMo project, way back in 2003, was Deborah and Barak which was released last year, but other than that all I have produced during the month of November is unpublished work — not to mention what I produce the other elevent months of the year. Here’s the current tally of what I’ve written during the last couple of years that’s still not on bookstore shelves:
Untitled “New York Novel” — Historical fiction, currently in the hands of my agent who is marketing it. I’m not even slightly Catholic but I’m seriously considering talking to St. Francis de Sales (patron saint of writers) about this one. If not St. Jude.
Prone to Wander (NaNoWriMo 2004) — I’m not ready to revise this any further or seek a publisher for it yet, so I’m OK with this one being shelved for the moment. Its time will come.
The Stones of Ashreel (NaNoWriMo 2005) — Fantasy novel first written over 15 years ago and then completely rewritten in 2006, but still not revised enough to send to my agent yet.
Sunrise Hope (NaNoWriMo 2006) — Inspirational romance that was rejected by the first publisher I sent it to post-NaNo last year. Have I ever gotten around to sending it out again? Not so much, even though I’m fairly sure it’s publishable.
Philippi (working title) — Biblical fiction I just finished the first draft of, which now needs to be revised so I can submit it to Review and Herald, who have shown interest based on the first few chapters.
So you see, it makes sense not to produce a new manuscript for NaNoWriMo 2007, but rather to devote some serious time to finishing, revising, and finding homes for all these pieces of work. Mind you, I do have a new project on the back burner that I’m just itching to get going on (some of you have read the first chapter; if not, and you’re curious, it’s here, but you have to email me at trudyj65 [at] hotmail to get the magical password!)
I have decided to resist with all my might the temptation to do any more on that manuscript until I have dealt with some of the detritus from the last few years of my writing life.
I firmly believe that with loving care and revision, all these manuscripts will find happy homes and will end up on your bookshelves. I have written two novels in my life that never got published and that I gave up on completely — young adult novels called There Are Still a Lot of Things I Don’t Understand and Forget About Me — and two nonfiction manuscripts that never found the right publisher. I can accept that, because the nonfiction books weren’t really the right genre for me so I was never fully happy with them, while the novels were written in my early 20s and I view them as valuable learning experiences — sort of apprenticeship books. But at this stage of my life, I am not practicing. I’m writing for real and I have to put in the time it takes to see projects through to completion.
As for Kerry, who brought me to this place of sanity with her words of wisdom … yeah, she decided to go ahead and do NaNo this year after all. But just because she’s caved doesn’t mean I will! If you hear me so much as hint at starting a new project, please feel free to come to my house and poke me in the eye with a pointy stick.
*(Note: the photo at the top of this post was found on Flickr. If anyone recognizes where the phrase “to not to” in the post title comes from, let me know in the comments and you will win an amazing prize … the knowledge that you, like me, watch far too many kids’ movies!)