Wednesday 11 November 2020

News from NaNoLand - Kelly McCaughrain

This is a quick update on my writing group’s mini-NaNo, 'Goal For November.'

We all have different time commitments and we came up with all sorts of goals such as:

  • Add 30K/15K/10K to the WIP
  • Write a plot plan/synopsis/two new scenes/a short story
  • Submit to agents/publishers/journals
  • Read some inspirational books
  • Spend 4 hours a week on new stuff
  • Rewrite 5 chapters
  • Plot a sequel

And so far we’re all doing really well. We post our progress most days on Facebook and encourage each other, and I for one really feel inspired to keep going because I know I’ll have to report back. Not because anyone will shout at me (I’m the shouter, they’re all terrified), but because I know they’re all struggling away too and I feel less alone and I don’t want to let anyone down.

And it’s going great! The first few days were so bad I actually deleted more words than I wrote, and my husband helpfully suggested I rename it NaNoSloMo, but I’ve now added 10K to my WIP and I’ve actually quite enjoyed it. 

I have a real issue with editing as I go. I love editing, I hate first drafts, so I’ll do anything I can to avoid writing the next scene. But this is a slow and not very efficient process as you often spend weeks refining a scene that will eventually get cut. It’s also emotionally and creatively crippling because your inner critic in given a very prominent seat at the table and allowed to make comments. 

With NaNo, my inner critic/editor is left firmly at the door. I just have to get the words down, it doesn’t matter if they’re not great (they’re not great). And that’s actually been tremendously freeing. I’m still editing, because often I’ll get a few scenes ahead and then realise I need to change something and I’ll go back and do that, but I would never have gotten those scenes down in the first place if I’d been agonising at the sentence level over every page on the way.

So basically I am sold on NaNo. Don’t know why I never did it before. But I do like our mini version. 50K is off-putting, especially if you have a life. And it helps to have a lock-down to clear some space in your diary. And I’m not using the official site (too much procrastinatory faffery), just our Facebook group.

So how's your NaNo going? If you haven't tried it, I recommend it. Any month will do. You just need to define success for yourself, and gather some friends to cheer you on!


Kelly McCaughrain is the author of the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year,

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

She is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland #CWFNI

She also blogs at The Blank Page




Penny Dolan said...

Hi Kelly. I really empathise with with your need-to-edit-as-you-go problem!
Good to hear your Nano version is shifting that tendency out of the way, and that your November writing group is working well.

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Thanks Penny, it's been a real eye-opener actually. It remains to be seen if it'll produce anything good in the longrun but it's been fun.

Nick Garlick said...

I *do* love to edit. It's just that pesky first draft that needs writing first!