Nanowrimos are great for the social environment, but it’s been a long time since writing 50k in a month was a hard thing to do. I always watch those who want to go as zany as they possibly could as fast as they possibly can, and I just shake my head. It is possible to write a fifty thousand word novel in a month and still have something that (with an extensive edit) is something that no one has to ever know was written in November.
I’m extremely proud of The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons. Not only was it written in November of 2013, it was also sold in the first draft stage by the 17th. It took just over two weeks to write and three months to rewrite, but it is still one of the best things I had done at the time. It’s a fun story with lots of twists and turns, but says something about the first time in a person’s life they decide to piss instead of getting off the pot. There’s also the problem with legislation of rights and how the problem is bigger than whether or not your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed. It’s about consent, even if the person eats sex for a meal. It’s literally about the care as much as it is the feeding of sex demons.
The most important thing about deciding that you’re going to sit down and write a novel in a short amount of time, for me, is not to assume I could possibly think of the entire plot before I started. There’s always something wrong, and complicated characters that have an issue and a desire the fix it, but rather than the main character knowing exactly what they’re getting into, but their first action is more like plugging up a hole in the dam with their finger. Whether they let go or stay put, their life is going to change, and I don’t have to know what’s behind the dam before they go and stick their finger in it.
I think frontloading the first half of the book full of wonder and awe is the easiest way to write anything. Not all the amazing things are going to pan or pay out, so you have to go back and ruthlessly edit, but at every point if there’s a safe or a weird decision to make, pound on the weird. Nothing has to make sense, as long as the main character is still actively trying to make the situation better even as the problem spirals out of control just ahead. If you keep stomping around in the character’s boots, eventually the solution is going to bubble up from the subconscious of your mind. Your job, until you know what the big bad is, to change my metaphor completely, is just to lay the pipe so the solution can get to where you are.
Once you know, DON’T GO BACK AND EDIT it in. Continue on as though you’ve made all the changes to what has happened in place. Chances are my first best guess is still going to be wrong, but it’s going to be close enough to right that the story will course correct like a bike falling to the right. If I did edit that first best guess, I’d just have to rewrite it all anyway.
The important thing to remember is a first draft is only a rough guesstimation of what the story I’m trying to tell is. Having a first draft is easier to fix than waiting for that perfect story to emerge. If you and your character don’t figure out what you’re both fighting until the halfway point, the second draft is where you get to rewrite what happened, but this time you’re one step ahead. First drafts are just picking the house you want to buy. Getting it to the final form it wants to be in is all the work involved in the mortgage, insurance, lawyer fees, renovations, moving, and settling in.