My son, El Punko tried for a few years to convert me to Nano. To be honest, I thought the idea was madness because of the time frame – 50,000 words in 30 days. My writing has to percolate to mature, which in itself is a drag, but not all of us are born with genius. The trouble here was that I confused writing with editing.
A few years ago, Nano came during the semester of my MA when we were doing the novel. The tutor presented structure like a cake recipe – follow this outline and you have great literature. Since I don’t cook, I should’ve had better sense, but I thought, okay, take her recipe and do Nano.
There was a wonderful madness about that first year. A word count goal, a map to get me there, friends who were running the same marathon. Intrinsic to the madness, however, is discipline. Like a marathon runner, you cannot stop to pet a dog or watch the buzzards fly over the copse. You have to run.
So for a writer, that means you cannot stop and rewrite a phrase to make it brilliant. You cannot stop to research the correct colour of a room on the other side of the world or look up mythology or even the spelling of a foreign language phrase. You mainline your creativity into words. If you have two or three separate ways that a scene can go, you don’t stop to analyse; you write both of them.
Perhaps it’s more like skiing than running. Although actually, I’ve never skied. Maybe sled (sledge) riding then, when you push yourself off the edge of a snowy slope and hope for the best during that liberating mad dash, the cold wind gnawing on your cheeks, the sled bumping up and down, maybe getting bogged in new snow or wheeeeeeeee scary speed over a patch of ice. The freedom (and speed) comes from putting aside all the rules of grammar and good taste to say what you’ve always wanted to say in the way you want to say it even when you know that those sort of words and crap phrases and trite scenarios and shallow characters aren’t going to make it to print. Hell’s bells, you’re writing and it is this honesty in the first draft that will lead you to something fantastic.
The clean up comes later, maybe with a cup of hot cocoa or an Irish whiskey. But for now, open your wings, cast off your inhibitions, park your butt and write.