We’re on the back stretch now, and if this were an actual horse race, there would be almost as much distance to travel backward as forward, so stopping now would be close to useless. However, NaNoWriMo is an extended writing event, so we can take an easy trap door out of it at any point if we want to. Before we all push the Quit Now button, however, I want to point out a few things:
1. You will never be in the middle of this novel in the same way again. What I mean by that is simply that the last almost-two-weeks of writing has built a sense of tone and voice that fades once we step back from a project for a significant amount of time. It is very difficult for many—myself included—to rebuild the aura from an earlier time, mainly because as human beings, we change and evolve a little every day. If I pick up a manuscript a year later, I have a lot of additional work to either recapture the mood I was presenting earlier, or to reset the entire work in some consistent, new frame.
2. You may never get back to it. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to motivate people to finish a draft. Not to write a third or three-quarters of the way through and then stop. Even if I can only eke our 800 words like I did yesterday (this thin Denver air is getting to me), I use it to move on to the next day. I will not stop until I have a full first draft. Let’s get real, 50,000 words is a short book. I’ll probably wind up with 65,000 words or a little more. But if I can plunk my manuscript in on November 30 and “win” the contest, I’ll give myself a pat on the back. Anyone can start and not finish a project. We’ve done too much work to just quit in the middle.
3. The more writing you do, the better you’ll become. Quitting isn’t an experience to grow from, as far as practice writing goes. I said a few days ago that habits form only after a series of 16 repetitions. We’re not even at that point yet. Let’s see if we can plug away until Tuesday, and then reconsider throwing up our hands in failure. Because by then it will be easier to continue.
4. November 30, 2010 is going to roll around whether we’ve done our writing or not. I will say here that the goal of writing 50,000 words by 11/30, while nobel, misses a whole lot of points. Personally, I’d rather NaNoWriMo focus on daily writing than the final word count. If someone wrote half of the writing goal, but managed to grapple through 1,000 words a day, I’d drop a ball of confetti in celebration. Daily writing is what makes writers tick. Even if the writing stream isn’t what we want it to be, it’s not nothing. By the end of the month we’ll have more in our manuscripts than we did before we started, and that’s fantastic.
5. Always remember the bulk of the craft is in the rewriting. We’re just putting out ideas here. This is not James Joyce straight out of the box. All of the word craft and language choices, rhythm, careful, brilliant dialogue, that’s what we’ll focus on after this month is over—not that some of it isn’t present now. There is nothing artistic that doesn’t come from building something off of a foundation. A friend of mine who is a sculptor starts things with an idea, then a drawing, then a small model, a wire scaffolding, and finally, a layered sculpture. It is painstaking and sometimes it’s not particularly enjoyable. But we know that we’re building to something, and the payoff at the end is tremendous and satisfying. If we stop now? We’ve sweated and bled and cried and not been good enough to ourselves to get the reward of finishing.
You owe it to yourself to keep going. So keep going.