This month I have learned:.
1. Actually writing a novel is a lot harder than it looks. It's easy to armchair quarterback someone else's tale. But when you're creating it yourself - whole different ball game (to extend the metaphor).
2. A fast way of writing a first draft. I normally write, edit, rewrite, edit. It's push-pull all the way. This time I wrote the first draft like I've read of others writing it - FAST. No looking back. No editing along the way. I was afraid that if I started reviewing yesterday's work, my editor would get all excited and eager and I'd get distracted with that - OR, I'd be so discouraged about the dreck I was writing I wouldn't finish the project. (I still haven't read what I wrote.)
3. About the various elements of a novel - characters, scenes, mini-scenes, dialogue, transition stuff. I tend to be one of those people who feels like I've conquered something after I've read about it (thus my collection of feel-good writing how-to). But following that advice when writing an actual story is as different from reading about it as walking across a stream on a slippery log is different from seeing it on film.
4. Writing a novel-length story can be full of surprises.
- For example, I was surprised by how my plot took different directions than I thought it would. What I tried to do with each scene was turn the characters loose and see what they would do. Often they didn't end up where I had thought they would.
- Also, some of the things that felt arbitrary when they first happened ended up advancing the plot later in ways I had never envisioned. It was really quite amazing.
- Another surprise - how I composed best. Writing longhand, though I put up more words when I composed at the keyboard. For some reason keyboard composing felt like making something with gloves on.
5. My story is far from done. Even as I was writing, I realized I was leaving out so much that had seemed important during the imagination stage. Now I need to look back to see if some of those things have a place. This initial writing has been a way of simply pinning the thing down, or as Stephen King describes it, uncovering the fossil. I take comfort in the chorus of voices that reassures me the brilliance of a piece of fiction comes from the author's ability to rework that clumsy first draft into a readable story. In that department I have my work cut out for me!
6. NaNo is a great way to get at the bones of a first draft because:
- You're not alone in this craziness. NaNo emails, your NaNo buddies and regional events (should you choose to participate) alleviate the solitariness of the task.
- Those NaNo emails, in particular, are something else! As one of my buddies said, someone should invent such an encouragement service for writers all year long.