I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I probably should have waited until later in the post to say that, kind of lead up into it sort of thing, but meh. It’s not like I can go back and fix it or anything.
Okay, I kid. In actuality going back fixing what I’ve already written is the reason I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.
There’s something Chuck Wendig often repeats on his blog, a phrase, a fundamental axiom of writerdom. That phrase is not, “Complete thy poop,” but you get the idea. It’s good advice, both for writers, and those afflicted by constipation.
Thing is, for the writer completion doesn’t happen all at once. There’s that first stage of completion when you finish your rough draft, and you feel all giddy about finally being done with this monstrosity. Except, of course, you aren’t done. Then come the rewrites, and the editing, the beta reads and the queries, and, hopefully, publication in one form or another.
Put simply, your poop requires polish.
And this year I’ve got some stories that need polish. Two years ago I wrote a story for NaNoWriMo called The Dark Mile about a young man trying to deal with increasingly disturbing dreams and visions that seem to focus around one particularly desolate spot along his nightly paper route. It’s been sitting for all that time, untouched, while I’ve pursued other things. It’s been waiting long enough.
Several years before that, I wrote a story called In the Shadow of Doubt about a holy war that breaks out in a tribe of squirrels living in a tree that fills their entire world. I sent it out to a number of agents, received zero response and eventually got discouraged and shelved it. But the other day, reading back through that story I found that there was a lot to like in it. It needs a little touching up, a little smoothing out, but the bulk of the story really works.
So while the rest of you busy beavers and bashing your heads against your keyboards desperately trying to get to 1,667 words each day, I’ll be hunkered down here with words I’ve already written, trying to make the bad into good and the good into better. I’ll let you figure out which of us has it better. At least you have the luxury of some measurable metric of success.
Oh, and speaking of that:
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about how 50,000 words does not an actual “novel” make. Not according to “the publishers”. I’m not generally disposed to bash of one form of publishing or another, but in this particular case if I were not a man of gentle words I would instruct you on exactly which sexual act you might perform on “the publishers” and in which orifice, and which brand of garden rake might be best for the job. Why?
Because A STORY’S LENGTH IS NOT A SIGNIFICANT MEASURE OF ITS VALUE. Did you catch that? You there in the back, where you able to hear me?
Your story should be as long as it needs to be. You can tell a good and compelling story in 50,000 words. You can go longer if you want —and if you’ve got your eye on traditional publishing it wouldn’t hurt to keep their preferences in mind— but don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a writer because you’ve reached the end of your tale when you wind up at 50k.
So to all of you out there, no matter what you’re doing this month, I hope it works out better than you could ever dream. And to that one guy reading this post on his phone while he’s taking a dump, well…you know.