This year, I’m doing something different for NaNoWriMo. Instead of writing 50,000 words, I have decided to devote all the time the would have spent writing to editing my already-written first novel. 50 hours of editing. That’s probably what it needs to be reader-worthy.
See, last year I finished writing the content in Chiang Mai,Thailand, and when I ran out of stuff to write, I started writing for my diary or for other stories. But I don’t want to do that this year.
I started participating in Nano in 2013 while living in Shimane, Japan. I wrote so that my story would be more than just an idea in my head. I wrote so that I would know what kind of writer I was. I wanted to test my skill, my patience, my endurance, and I wanted to see if I could write that much while holding down a full-time job. Turns out, I can.
I learned a lot about myself in the first year, so in 2014 when I was in Myanmar and Thailand, I did Nano again to confirm what I learned, and to test my abilities in a more nomadic environment.
This year, I have nothing more to learn about myself as a writer, and I have no new writing to do. Though I’ve already written some chapters for my second novel and have a vague idea of the story, I feel I need the experience of completing one novel before undertaking another one. The last thing I want is thirty unfinished and unreadable novels on my desktop. I need something I can show to people. I need something complete. I need to experience the entire process of novel writing, from initial idea to final edits.
At this time, my skill level is incomplete. I know how to conjure up ideas and convert them into stories. I know how to describe, embellish, and elaborate on my ideas. I know how to weave them into a compelling sequence that surprises and enticed a reader. I know how to tweak the stories and structure and characters to help them reach their potential, to bring out their truest selves. But I don’t yet know, or haven’t experienced, the final editing and structuring that must occur before a story is actually readable.
I know from my meticulous record-keeping of the last two years, that I write about 1,000 words per hour on average. This means I will need to spend 50 hours this next month editing my 120,000-word novel. I have no idea how much text I can edit in one hour. If the work doesn’t need a lot of changes, I suppose I can cover quite a lot of text, but then there are those paragraphs that command a full hour of attention and focus, which is sometimes what it takes to get them just right. For that reason, I won’t be tracking how many words I edit per hour, and my only goal is to finish editing the entire novel. This is a different goal than merely writing 50,000 words. 50,000 words is measurable. But whether or not my novel is “complete” is purely subjective. Only I will know when I'm satisfied. So, I’ve committed at least 50 hours this next month to editing, but I have no idea whether that time amount is too much or not enough. This is the part of the process in which I still have a lot to learn.