Let me start by wishing everyone who participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge congratulations. Whether you got to at least 50,000 words and finished writing a novel or not, you did make a commitment to your writing pursuits and that’s no easy feat. Many of us don’t have writing as our one and only job and, therefore, don’t have eight or more hours a day to use on writing, editing, thinking about writing, etc. I know, for me, it’s frustrating to get into a writing groove only to have to switch gears and get to my fulltime job. Now, however, with that self-imposed pressure to write at least 1,667 words a day over - and let’s face it, it is self-imposed because no one said we had to do NaNoWriMo - let’s all take that drive we reenergized our writing with and continue it the rest of our writing lives. Well, at least for the months ahead. Let’s take our manuscripts and edit the hell out of them. Let’s go to conferences, workshops and writing classes. Let’s serve as beta-readers for our fellow writers. (I am looking for some test readers so if you’re interested, shoot me an email or reply to this post.)
The month, in a strange way, worked out well for me. Hurricane Sandy killed our power so I had nothing to do but read and write. I was scheduled to run in the New York City Marathon, which, for me, would have been a six-hour endeavour. With the race getting cancelled, I was able to take what would have been running time and add it to my writing hours. Sandy also kept school closed for several days. As a teacher, then, I didn’t have to report in and had more time to write and, even when school did resume, the first couple of days were half days so I still had the afternoons to work on my manuscript. Then came Thanksgiving, with days off from work and, just this week, I was home sick. Who’d have thought being sick would turn out to be a good thing? Anyway, there’s only so much sleeping and mindless TV watching one can do. So, once my wife left to drop off our son at day care and go teach her Gyrotonic, Pilates and dance classes, I took down my Airborne, made a cup of tea and made the dash to the finish. By mid-morning on Wednesday, I’d finished my novel, albeit a first draft at 50,972 words. That’s the validated number by NaNoWriMo’s word counter. My Word application had it at 50,979 but, really, what are seven words when you’re already over 50K?
There have been claims that the NaNo challenge is a waste because it produces some really bad novels because participants are working at a feverish pace and encouraged to silence their inner editors. Well, firstly, I have to say what’s ‘bad?’ Maybe the writing, plotting, character motivations, scene descriptions, and so on have to be worked on but, whether you get a first draft done NaNo-style (Hmm, can we start a NaNo dance in the vein of Gangnam Style?) or in a less harried and more thoughtful way at a more leisurely pace, the idea is to get a first draft done. Marie Lu, the author of the highly successful dystopian Legend, tells writers not to fear writing badly when they start. Most books I’ve read on writing, in fact, and conferences and classes I’ve been to remind us that the first draft is going to be junk anyway. It’s rare - if ever - that a manuscript doesn’t need editing, cutting, revising, revamping before it can be shown to an agent or publisher or editor. Secondly, sometimes a ‘bad’ novel isn’t really a ‘bad’ novel. It’s sometimes labeled ‘bad’ simply because the reader didn’t like it. I haven’t read Mockingjay but I do have friends who’ve said it’s horrible. (I just started Catching Fire so it’ll be a little while before I can decide how I feel about Mockingjay.) Others, meanwhile, have loved it.
One reviewer didn’t enjoy my own novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, saying it “failed to deliver.” Others, however, thoroughly enjoyed it giving it five-star reviews at Goodreads and at the publisher’s, Abbott Press, website. Among those I know who’ve read it and enjoyed it are two English professors, a boxing journalist, a black belt and a writer. The judges of the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards said Back Kicks And Broken Promises is “…interesting, well-written, and inspiring. The themes of identity, father-son relationships, and coming-of-age are nicely woven into the martial arts metaphor that serves as the organizing principle of the book."
So, bad isn’t really always bad.
But, I am writing this post, really, to say thank you to the NaNoWriMo people again. I finally signed up for the challenge this year and I can say, as NaNoWriMo does, “I won.” Now, it’s up to me to keep winning by revising, boosting my word count to get to about 70-80K and to edit and polish my manuscript so Sage of Heaven becomes the best book it can be; is enjoyed by all and not just the Asian-American YA audience it is ostensibly geared for.
Thanks to The Office of Letters and Light and congratulations to those who did and are still doing - at the time of writing this post there are still eight hours left to finish and get to be called a winner - NaNoWriMo 2012. Happy writing to all!