Here’s the thing about the aftermath of NaNoWriMo

In all my years of schooling I never remember editing a paper. Especially in college, when rough drafts and second drafts weren’t collected for points, I would sit down the night or so before the paper was due, type it up within an hour, print it out, receive my A and move on to the next paper. Even now I rarely edit my writing – at least not before it’s published.

The main reason for my lack of editing in the past is that it was never necessary. I never had trouble doing well in school (except for my misguided attempt at AP Chemistry in high school – seriously, what was I thinking?) and any first draft paper usually got me an A, so why waste time on improving something that was already “good enough?”

Even on blog posts there is always the EDIT option, which to me leaves pre-published editing unnecessary. After I write something up, I feel great about it, and to read it and find all of these mistakes or typos would discourage me. So I just send it along its way and then re-read it an hour or day later and fix any mistakes I think are worth fixing.

Then I decided to write a book.

For about a month after NaNoWriMo I didn’t even look at my book. I was terrified that I would start the editing process, that I would start to read this piece of work I had spent the past thirty days on, and that it would be horrible. I was scared that what I had written wasn’t worth reading and that I would out myself as a bad writer.

ImageSo instead of reading it myself I sent it off to two of my smartest and reader-est friends and asked them to do the first read for me and to advise me as to whether or not the painful editing process would be worth it. They both assured me that, while certainly in need of some tune-ups (and a consistent timeline), this novel was worth working on.

Boistered by their encouragements and suggestions I started in on the book myself, still scared that I would hate it, but determined to make it through. I printed it out and put it into a green three-ring binder and I read it, making small notes and edits here and there as I went along. It took me twice as long to read through it as it did to write it and I still haven’t finished putting even my minimal changes onto the computer copy.

It’s just now that I see what a mess I have to sort out (just how old is everyone? how big is this settlement? what do they eat? what do they wear? am I really set on these character names?) I am feeling more discouraged than ever. I have this great vision of what having a finished novel that people can read and enjoy (and pay for?!) will feel like but doing the day-to-day work in order to accomplish that goal and live that vision isn’t as fun as daydreaming about being a published author.

After NaNoWriMo I would proudly declare that “I wrote a book!” Now I realize I did no such thing. I wrote over 50,000 words, yes. These words go together to make a story, yes. But words and a storyline do not a book make, I’m sad to report.

Will I ever finish the taxing process of editing and re-writing and making-this-thing-readable? Gosh I hope so. And I hope it’ll be within the calendar year. For now I (filled with hope) will leave you with the (pretty edited) first two paragraphs of my almost-novel:

I wake up at 6:30AM when the colony-wide alarm goes off. My eyes pop wide open and the last memories of a dream quickly fade away. In the dream there was a bear, which is strange, because I have never seen a bear – not in real life, anyway. I wonder for a moment what a real bear was doing in my dreams, but before I can figure it out I remember something important. Today is my birthday!

Forgetting all about the dream bear I stand straight up on my bed and throw my arms out wide. “Good morning, people of The Commonwealth! My name is Gracie Hart and today is my seventh birthday!” I shout excitedly. Normally if I stood up and shouted on my bed right after the wake-up alarm my mom or dad would rush in to shush me and say something like, “Don’t upset the baby!” But not today. Today I can shout all I want, because it’s my birthday, and there’s nothing Samson the whiny baby can do about it. Of course, Samson isn’t really a baby. He’s two whole years old. But he really is pretty whiny.

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