Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Day 5

A word of advice

The NaNoWriMo website gets jammed in the evening when everyone is posting a word count. I tend to write in the morning, and I go ahead and enter my word count as I go, even if I plan to write more later in the day. You can update your word count as many times a day as you’d like. If I do write in the evening, I enter that word count the next day.

What I’m learning

Keep in mind that I did not start from scratch. On Day 1 of NaNoWriMo I was already halfway to my goal. This means my daily goal is already less than half that of a true, non-cheating NaNoWriMo participant. I’ve been spending no more than two hours a day writing—sometimes just an hour, and yet I’m making progress and I see the shape of the manuscript emerging in ways I wouldn’t have if I’d just read through drafts without adding any new writing.

I can see that I need to set up a quest or Big Concern early on and shape the book to explore that quest or concern. And I’m already getting a good idea of what that Big Concern is for me—not something I ever considered writing about until this month, although I see my quest there under the surface in much of my writing to date. This is the fun part of writing—discovery! 

Much (if not all) of this material will need to be rewritten once I know better where the manuscript is headed. Creating a book out of discrete pieces (whether stand-alone drafts, blogs, or essays) can happen in two ways (probably more than two): as a collection of discrete meditations or essays, or as narrative nonfiction.

This writing wants to be narrative. What a surprise! When I fantasized about converting blog posts into a book, I imagined a minimum of revision. I thought I would just plunk the pieces together and voila! I love the essay, but I think I might love the challenge of book-length narrative even more—holding the structure of years and multiple themes and threads together and cinching them tighter in each round of revision.

I’m not yet doing the cinching, but this NaNo cheating forces me into the manuscript each day for at least an hour or two. I skim eight or ten pages of what’s already written, then find an access point to dip in and write. I surface again, skim, then write some more. It’s that writing time, inside the manuscript, that helps me think, that helps me to see the narrative threads and motifs in my life. 

But the time when I’m not writing is just as valuable—maybe even more so. Because I’m physically “into” the manuscript every day to get my word count, I find that I’m also mentally into the manuscript while I’m going about the rest of my day. More than once I’ve opened the file again hours after completing my word count in order to add another thought, another paragraph, another few hundred words.

Reading list

To help keep my head in the manuscript even when I’m not immersed in it, I’ve started a reading list, along the lines of what I see as my Big Concern in the work.

Why Place Matters: Geography, identity, and Civic Life in Modern Times, eds. Wilfred M. McClay, Ted V. McAllister

The Body Geographic, Barrie Jean Borich

Leaving the Pink House, Ladette Randolph

Our Town, Thornton Wilder

Word count: 35,382

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