Monday, December 5, 2011

"Novel" is done!

My National Novel Writing Month "novel" reached 70,000 words on November 30. I barely wrote anything on the last day because I had reached the end of my plot a few days before, went back and added a scene, but couldn't think of anything else to add. Attempts to find a place to shoehorn more description or dialog only revealed tons of places where things should be deleted, so I ended up rounding out my novel to 70,000 words and leaving that as good enough.

The novel started out as "Welcome to Berk" and went through a mid-month re-christening to "A Librarian of Berk." Now that the month is over, I still like the characters and the setting, which I take as a good sign. I also feel like I managed to reverse the trend my November "novels" were going in, where they seemed to be getting progressively worse.

One thing that I realized as I was working on the "novel" was that National Novel Writing Month can be a very selfish activity. There I was, day after day, spending my evenings in front of my computer, cranking out words when I could have been spending time with my wife, family, and/or friends. The "novel" may have been ostensibly written for the eventual enjoyment of others, but really I think a much larger part was proving that I could complete the task I had been given. For a month, a lot of my tweets and Facebook status updates were about my word count and my novel, and they amounted to me saying, "Look at me! Look at how well I am doing!"

It was very much like blogging. I am aware of the irony.

This is the fourth time I've attempted National Novel Writing Month, and the fourth time I've succeeded. I realized as I was writing the novel that the reason I was writing the novel was so that I could boast that I had a four-for-four record on NaNo, and that my latest novel even exceeded the 50,000 word goal. My initial goal was to reach 60,000 words, which I amended to 75,000 when I saw how well I was doing. In the end, I ran out of plot before I ran out of time, so I ended up with 70,000.

Despite having written a 70,000 word story, the story's elements - the plot, the characters, the setting - are all secondary to the simple physical labor of having churned out this work. I feel like the guy who baked the world's largest cake: he's showing off how big the cake is, but nobody cares what flavor it is. And certainly, if my novel had a flavor, it wouldn't be chocolate. As any NaNo participant knows, when your single goal is word count, you can keep on typing long past the point where any rational writer would have cut himself off, deleted the past paragraph, and sat thinking for a good long time about the best way to continue the story.

So what is my point, exactly? Maybe it's that, now that I've managed to birth this hulking monstrosity, I like to make the effort worthwhile by editing it into something readable. I know that, as it stands, I would feel bad about inflicting it on anyone else (even on the people who have generously offered to do so). The lovely editor I live with has offered to look it over and suggest ways to improve it, an offer I am extremely grateful for.

After the first editorial pass has been completed, the novel will probably have not only improved, but also shrunk down to a more manageable size. After spending a month trying to get my novel as large as possible, I now face the daunting challenge of going back and chopping out most of it.

I won't lie and pretend that I'm excited by the prospect. Really, the thing I would like most would be for someone to say, "It's a miracle! Even when he was writing over 2,000 words a day, the novel is still solid gold!" But I know in the rational part of brain that it is going to take a lot of work to get this novel into a readable state.

Ah well. That's NaNoWriMo.

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