I wrote my first completed novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). It was a wonderful experience, including the pace. Every novel I’ve seen through to “The End” since has been drafted at that same frenetic pace. Daily goals, I learned quickly, are useful for me. The constant thrill of reaching and beating that goal was addictive to say the least.
The problem was that it got unhealthy. It took me a while to see that though. When you can look at 150k words in 21 days and think “Oh god, I have to top that somehow in order to be happy with myself,” it’s all gone a little too nuts.
Worse, I wasn’t enjoying writing anymore the way I once had.
So when I finally felt ready to write again after last year’s breakdown, I decided to reset and try something different. I’d write the book with a low word goal in mind (because I still love goals), something I could realistically do and still love writing. 500 words seemed a good choice.
The thing I had to make peace with, which hasn’t always been easy, is that I’d be writing this book for a while. No quick gratification. No massive word counts to announce. I couldn’t quickly move onto the next story. And I’ve had to deal with a lot of internal guilt when I do other things. The constant refrain of “You should be writing” haunts me sometimes.
But it’s been a good experience. I find I enjoy the slower pace. I’m able to think more about what I want to write, because I’m not rushing any of it. And I’m able to respond to the story better. I didn’t outline the whole thing this time, you see, just a few at a time.
The draft is also turning out better. It’s more to the point, less word-flab to it, and I feel like more has happened. I am so much happier with this version of the book (for those of you who don’t know, I wrote Where The Ether Flows once, but have junked it to totally rewrite and replot it). I’m also happier with this version of Devan. Many of the details of his life aren’t changed, but they make more sense now, and his reactions are different.
It’s also nice to think I can do other things. Gaming, reading. Or just sitting around and chatting. I can relax. I don’t have to feed every spare minute to writing. I can’t tell you how freeing that is. The idea that I can take a day off if I’m feeling poorly, mentally or physical, allows me to work when I’m at my best and it shows in the writing.
I’m not saying I’ll never fast draft again, because the future might require it. I’m just not going to let it be my default method again. I don’t know if I’ll ever do NaNo again. I love it and think everyone should give it a real shot at some point, but I’m finding a new process that’s working better for me. And that’s what matters, doing what works for you.
As of the writing of this, I’ve actually reached 60k, written across two and a half months. My hope is to have a finished draft by the end of the year. I think I can, I think I can. ;)
And if you’re curious about Where The Ether Flows, I posted a pitch and the first 250 words of it here. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I have a book to write. :)