My book has been at least two years in the making, and if I’ve learned anything from reading books about writing, it’s “cut to the chase.”
Writing a book is something completely different than planning to write a book.
The fundamental difference between writing and planning is that the former produces an object, while the latter produces nothing. Just ideas and sketches. Ever tried to edit ideas and sketches into a final draft? You can’t, because it’s not an object yet.
Producing something that’s a complete object, even if it’s just a draft, was so much harder than I imagined it to be. I had outlines and character sketches up the wazoo; place and people names chosen; themes, motifs, looks, feels; I’d even filled out questionnaires that were supposed to help me flesh out the world of my novel. But at the end of the day, it was just digital scraps.
Come day 24 of NaNoWriMo, and I had 200 pages of story — that’s 50,706 words, to be exact. What a huge difference from my dozens of notes written everywhere from Google Docs to napkins to the backs of receipts! What did I have to do to get to this place?
Commit to the process.
This is the brilliance of the NaNoWriMo method — it gives writers and aspiring writers something to commit to besides their own dreams. What is it about giving credence to our dreams that's so terrifying? What I loved most about NaNoWriMo didn't involve any of its bells and whistles; it was simply the mass rationalization that, yes, it's normal and okay to sit down and write a book. Anyone can do it. You can do it, too.
Looking back at the month, Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” pops up in my mind’s ear. Mostly due to harder — I spent some dark, hair-pulling moments where I was convinced I couldn’t finish — but it wasn’t long before better, faster, and stronger came along to ease the whole wild process.
Listening to the song again, I realize harder is actually a good kind of hard, as in toughness and resilience, and not an expression of difficulty. And maybe that’s what NaNoWriMo does for first-time novelists — it gives us the callouses, muscles, and grit we need to keep on going.
Work It. Make It. Do It. Makes Us. Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.
Work It Harder, Make It Better, Do It Faster, Makes Us Stronger. More Than Ever. Hour After. Our Work Is Never Over.