Another NaNoWriMo over

So, another NaNoWriMo is over, and Laz and I managed to write 150,000 between us, in the space of 30 days. Added to that, Alex, one of my kung fu brothers, also participated, and he managed 50,000, too. Between the three of us, then, we have produced 200,000 words in a single month.

And guess what? Those words aren’t shit! So many people enter into NaNo thinking they are supposed to write 50,000 words of crap. However, this is far from the case. NaNoWriMo exists so that you can write freely and fast, without worrying too much about whether what you’re writing is any good. And that is an enormous difference.

With 50k added to our WIPs (in my case, 50k words of rewriting), and the first 50k of a new, jointly written book under our belts, we will carry on writing, of course. Just because NaNo is over doesn’t mean the writing process has to end. I know a few people on the forums are putting their characters to bed for the next eleven months, ready to be resurrected in November 2013, but I don’t understand this at all. Why would you only write during November? OK, I’ve been guilty of not writing much for several months, only editing bits and pieces I’ve already written, but I am a writer, therefore: I write! All year round! Shock! Horror!

That’s not such a novelty, though. Writers write. If the only reason you write is because it’s November and you’ve signed up to NaNoWriMo, can you really call yourself a writer? Perhaps that’s a little unfair of me. Writers are those who write, whenever they do it. But it’s not really as simple as that.

I have written for as long as I can remember. Much of what I wrote in the past was utter crap, but at least I was writing, getting in the necessary practice. My trilogy (soon to be expanded by adding a fourth book) has taken years of my life. I’ve put so much energy and emotion and love into the people who populate my books. And now I’ve used NaNo to start rewriting the first volume from scratch, but not because the story was crap – far from it. The story deserved my attention. It was good. But since I started working on these books, the quality of my writing has improved a hundredfold. Whatever has happened in my life recently – and I do mean in the last few years – has had a direct effect on my writing, and I now feel much more confident in what I do. I take great pride in my writing, and so I should. So should all writers. If they don’t – why the fuck are they doing it?

I understand these things take time. I’m 38 and it has taken until now for me to think, and really believe, that I’m actually a decent writer. I’ve written articles for years, and have been told I’m an excellent and very quotable writer when people are using the articles for press releases, but it’s not the same when writing fiction.

I started rewriting the first volume in my series because there was so much I needed to take out. On top of that, I know the characters far better now than I did then, and I can more easily see what they’re doing and hear what they’re saying. There were also plot threads that needed to be removed, partly because they did nothing for the plot and partly because they bored me. This is also the case for the second volume – there are whole plot threads and at least one character that I need to remove, and the easiest way for me to do that is to start again from scratch, outlining the bits I need to keep, altering bits I want in there to fit around the things I don’t (one character arrived on the scene because the characters are at an album launch, but it’s part of a different – now defunct – plot thread, so I’ll simply change it so I can keep her in, because she amuses me).

What I’ve learnt from this rewrite is that this book is now infinitely better than it was before, and I’ve no doubt that this has been helped greatly by the fact I have a good bunch of people surrounding me, supporting me, handing out advice, making suggestions. And Laz is not biased just because we’re a couple. If he thinks something in my writing can be made better, or that doesn’t work, or that’s simply not very good, he will say so without holding back. (This works both ways, of course, and I’ll tell him if there’s something in his book that doesn’t sit right with me.) There’s just no point in pussyfooting around, because we don’t improve that way. ‘That’s nice, dear,’ simply doesn’t cut it, and this is illustrated by looking on the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ facility. Just go and have a ‘look inside’ – I dare you. And then tell me that, if some of those writers did ask anyone for editorial advice, those people, trying to spare the writers’ feelings or simply being unable to tell good writing from bad, didn’t say, ‘Yeah, that’s great, mate, go for it, it’s as good as anything published these days.’ But it clearly isn’t. OK, so much of what’s picked up by majors these days is actually crap. Naming no names, of course, but what can turn out to be a publishing phenomenon *shh!* might not actually be any good at all.

So go ahead. Sign up for NaNoWriMo. But don’t think you have to write crap, because you don’t. And don’t think you have to stop writing at the end of the month, because you don’t have to do that, either. Write. But write the best you can. Be proud.

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