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For musings on a messy writing life, the inspiration for Stella Rose, and the arduous journey to publication, along with side rants on family, pets, gardening, Vermont, and various other topics.

Home » NaNoWriMo – Let it go: Quantity over Quality

NaNoWriMo – Let it go: Quantity over Quality

Six days into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I received a desperation email. Those of us participating in this absurd event see plenty of these emails, and send a few, or several, ourselves. We’ll call this desperate NaNoWriMer Tory, because that’s her name (check out Bittersweet Manor with its ridiculously gorgeous cover).

Bittersweet Manor

I kinda talked Tory into doing this, so I felt compelled to do my best to assure her that the swill she’s drowning in is exactly the point of NaNoWriMo. The rules are simple: 50,000 words comprising the beginning, middle, and end of a novel in 30 days. It can’t be next Gatsby in 30 days, but it sure as hell could be the shitty first draft.

Here’s the email I sent to her, with tiny edits the OCD grammarian in me could not abide, and pics!


Good morning!

McKay Savage - Flickr
Flickr – McKay Savage

I’m envious of you morning writers. I have to get my words in at night, and not being very successful to date 😉

This month is all about quantity over quality. It’s about keeping your gaze on the horizon versus your feet. It’s dumping the junk drawer all over the floor (plot), putting stuff in like piles (scenes), and then in December start putting stuff neatly back into the drawer (novel).

Flickr - Liz West
Flickr – Liz West

Do any of these horrible metaphors help? There’s more! To me, this is where raw creativity hums, the spigot of imagination is wide open. That said, there is a spigot, there is a sink, and there is a drain – all of which, by function, control, contain, and direct the flow of creativity.

Flickr - estherproject
Flickr – estherproject

For those of us ‘edit as you go’ writers, keeping this in mind helps. I probably shared this already, but when I wrote Stella Rose during NaNoWriMo, I had to drive to a Walgreens to get ‘tools’ to help me contain the flow. That’s when I bought a legal pad, a ruler, and colored pencils – with no idea what I was going to do with them. When I returned to the condo, I ended up drawing a straight line with the ruler (12 inches) on the paper which became a timeline, I drew the classic story arc above the straight line, then realized I was looking at one year, each inch was one month, and this saved my sanity. This helped me understand the cadence of the story, when the pace had to quicken, crest, and resolve. So my imagination could stay wild while my mind maintained some order. We have as long as we want/need to tease out the greatness starting in December. I just hope this time it doesn’t take me five freaking years.


So this was my pep talk to Tory, to all my fellow NaNoWriMers, and to myself when I’m free falling into a new story or falling behind on my word count (5K to date, which does not bode well), or falling into bed exhausted and overwhelmed. Tomorrow’s another day, another 1,667 words, another tale to tell. Let it go, and let ‘er rip.

Flickr - Joel Kramer
Flickr – Joel Kramer

Do you have a novel in you?

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