I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo twice. And I played by the original rules—a new story, told from the beginning, typos and gaping plot holes be damned as, for the first time, I wrote directly into the computer, eschewing my preferred method of fountain pen and paper. I vowed never to lose, and wrote reams of rambling to help me develop the story. Characters interviewed each other to discover their motivations. Sparks of ideas turned into random scenes, parsed out into their own section in Scrivener, to be moved into their proper place in a future draft. I soared past the 50,000-word mark each time.
So when I signed up for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I figured this would be a piece of cake (pardon the cliché, a deadly writers’ faux pas, I know), especially since word counts were customizable. I set a nice, low bar of 15,000. And here I am, it’s April 27, and I have just 10,646 words. I don’t think I’ll manage much more by the April 30 deadline.
It’s more than the intense schedule bearing down on me this week. If there was ever a time to embrace my inner Viking warrior, it is now. But there are several factors at play here, and I’m content with walking away, not having met my goal.
I decided to join the rebels. Rebels don’t start an original story from the beginning. They work on revisions and a variety of other projects. Rebels have their own threads on the NaNoWriMo forums, ad are welcomed by the people who run the program.
It felt good to be a rebel this time. I pulled the manuscript from November, started over, and am slowly working on the draft. When working on the first draft, speeding through the writing process felt liberating. I wasn’t toiling over sentences and I focused on building the scaffolding of the novel. Some great scenes came up in moments of inspiration that may not have come up if I had been laboring and toiling and agonizing over just the right way to phrase a sentence.
The second draft is a more thoughtful process. The second draft strings together the rescued bits from the first. From the scaffolding, I’m building something much more detailed and complete. It won’t be ready to go to an editor at the end of the second draft, but I’m sharing it with other writers on Scribophile and revising as I go. The story requires a lot of worldbuilding. As one of my writing instructors has often said, you learn the whole writing process over again with each novel.
As Camp NaNo says on their site, “an idyllic writers retreat, smack dab in the middle of your crazy life.” This month was far from idyllic, but crazy is a spot-on description. As I turn to the editing the story which will be published later this year, I walk away from this experience happy that I made at least a little time for Camp NaNoWriMo. A rebel in two senses: working on a revision, and feeling satisfied enough not having met my super low word count? Maybe so. I’ll be joining them again in July, to be sure, and once again, I’ll be in the rebel camp, continuing the second draft. Maybe I’ll see you there.