Three Weeks to NaNoWriMo 2013!

When Chris Baty and twenty-one San Francisco Bay area friends held the first National Novel Writing Month in 1999, I was preparing materials for a year teaching kindergarten in Colorado. Curriculum-writing, not fiction, was on my mind. But mountain lions, hiking, wild fires, white buffalo, and avalanche survival were part of my life in the Rockies. Someday, Fiction-writing, I would face you, armed with material.

St. Mary's glacier

St. Mary’s Glacier, CO

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, has been held every year since 1999. And for the last two years, I have written. I’d love to say that I finished writing last year’s novel, sent it out, and was instantly rewarded with a contract. But I’d be lying. The truth is I did something equally important.

Last year’s NaNoWriMo helped me break a bad habit. I once heard that the average number of revisions on a first paragraph is twenty-five. So I was about average, with twenty-five revisions of my opening paragraph. Except I had gotten into the habit of revising my first paragraph twenty-five times BEFORE writing my second paragraph. Which leaves a lot of second paragraphs never written. I had to replace my bad habit with a good habit.

NaNoWriMo helped me rediscover fluency – writing, without stopping for correction edits and better idea revisions. NaNoWriMo helped me to WRITE; to get a wealth of material on actual pages. And some of it was really good material. Later I can revise it . Later I can edit. Now, I must let my characters speak, discovering what they want to say, to what sights, sounds, and scents they attend, where they want to go, unhindered by my inner editor. It’s a happy habit to have. This experience worked with Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (interview).

This year’s goal: Fifty-thousand words in thirty days. THEN revision. Then submissions. Then a contract.

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