Post by Gill Harrison
Jack Kerouac famously wrote the draft for On the Road in three weeks. Remind yourself of this while you hunger for your NaNoWriMo word count this November. Be inspired. Me though? I’ll be using my knowledge of Kerouac’s three week draft to keep me well away from NaNo in 2012.
I fell into November last Thursday. And then stumbled into NaNo. I took my place in front of my laptop in much the way my children assume their position at the breakfast table each morning. There is a presumption of Weet-Bix and porridge. On November 1st, operating somewhat on autopilot, I wrote 1956 words. But still I lacked the desire. Last year I wanted that word count. I craved it. Hitting the 50,000th word on Day 29 of 2011’s NaNo nourished the writer inside of me and I left November proud.
But winning NaNo may just be the easy part.
In the three years prior to the first draft of On the Road Kerouac labored through a long creative process. He planned and built his story in handwritten notebooks and letters. Then came the three week draft … followed by another six years of numerous rewrites. Kerouac persevered beyond the initial creative process. He wanted the book, not just the draft.
So as the morning of November 2nd broke around my gastro stricken household I wondered – What the hell am I writing for? Do I want my book?
I’m proud of the work I produced last November, too proud to let my draft linger and fade. I’ve spent the last year playing with my plot and characters, sometimes, like Kerouac in handwritten notebooks but mostly in my head while I wash dishes or vacuum. So rather than create another new beginning this November I’m spending quality time with last year’s four week draft.
Because if I want my book, if I want it to shine, then the time has come for reworking and revision. Approaching the task with clarity helps. Na No Wri Mo works because it creates focus. You slash distractions ruthlessly throughout the month. You focus on word count. But for the writerly process to continue beyond that first draft the focus has to shift. Concentrate on giving that word count design, plot, pace and rhythm. That’s what I’m writing for this November.
What are you writing for? For first draft or finished product? How does revision fit into your writing process?