Friday, November 14, 2014

NaNo and Slow Drafters

My name is Becky Mahoney, and I am a plotter.

I am a plotter to the extent that it makes drafting very, very slow. I like to get the wording very precise in my head before I lay it all out there. I didn't used to be this way, but I always say that learning how to revise properly kind of ruined me for drafting. Once I realized how good I could be, it was difficult to give myself permission to be terrible.

So having tried NaNoWriMo with very little success in the past, I always assumed it was just completely antithetical to the way I worked. Of course, I was always in the middle of a project when November rolled around, so I always tried to log 50k on that project with very little success. It's difficult enough to produce 50k in one month. But to produce 50k of good words? I'm sure it's been done, but I am nowhere near that amazing.

My participation this year was sort of a last-minute snap decision. All of my current projects were going slowly or stalling because I was stuck on the words, stuck on making them right in one go. I needed to stretch my drafting muscles. So I decided to do that with a completely blank slate. I chose a vague idea that had taken up residence in my brain over the last week of October, and I went for it with very little planning. Had I made this decision earlier, I might have made myself an outline ahead of time. But I dove in with only a few story beats mapped out in my head.

I am someone who, on a good day, is lucky to get to 500 words. 1000 is in the high end of my daily word count more often than not, and very rarely, I will write more, especially if I'm close to some watermark, like the end of a chapter (or the manuscript.) Today is November 14th, and I am sitting at 30,000 words.

They are, of course, not good words. Much of what I have is wheel-spinning, repeated conversations, clunky exposition, and loads and loads of telling. It is, in essence, a very long dry run for this project.

But I have a separate document going with all the ideas I'm having along the way: changes to the setting, various plot twists, logistical kinks to work out. I'm getting a chance to hash out voices and character dynamics without having to worry about hewing to my outline. And I'm getting a sense of just how much I can get done when I turn my internal editor off and just enjoy drafting.

I am a plotter. That much has not changed - actually, this experience has emphasized it for me. But NaNo is teaching me some excellent new tricks. And I look forward to using them.

I'll see you all at 50k!


  1. I am a slow drafter too with the result that my first is usually pretty clean. I'm writing on contract so this isn't just my imagination. :) My editor concurs.
    My high for a day is 1,000-1,500. The idea of just disgorging words onto paper to make word count is not my thing.

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