Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Corollary to NaNoWriMo, or, Why I'm Prouder of 600 Words than 10,000

Those of you who've been doing NaNo with me may have noticed something on my stats:

Let me blow that up for you a bit:

You can see that on days 3-4 I was pretty much stuck. No improvement. Then Day 5, I did a massive cut. Day 6, I cut more. I'm down to 600 words right now. 

Some of you noticed and were concerned (thank you; that's sweet!), but here's the thing.

Nothing bad happened.

I was getting close to 10k words. And then, on Day 5, I realized: that was the wrong 10k words.

So I deleted them all. 

Then I got in an interesting email convo with someone who'll remain nameless (but who's cool with me writing about this today; I asked). First, she advised that I put the words back. Her reasoning:

"You can still count them so you can win NaNo."

I. Um. I'll be honest here. I didn't realize people were that concerned about "winning" NaNo. When I signed up, I signed up for the momentum and community. I thought it would be fun to do this craziness with other people. I liked the stat record--long-time readers will remember how often I do live-blogging to keep myself accountable and to kick my writing in gear when I get stuck. 

I didn't do it to win.

Now, that said, I would like to have 50k by the end of the month. I'd love it. Given the prep work I've put into this, I'd actually like to have more than 50k by the end of the month, even with my cutting and slow start.

But I don't care about "winning."

My friend on email was still a bit shocked. "The point of NaNo is to push through doubt," she said. "Just keep writing."

Me: "But I have no doubt that those 10k words are wrong. And there's no point to keep writing on something that's not right."

Her: "But you're supposed to turn your inner editor off," she said. "And just write."

Me: "I am writing. Deleting the wrong words is part of writing."

Her: "But...now you're behind. You were ahead, and now you're behind." 

Me: "But...I'm ahead on getting the right story."

Her: "...but you're going to lose NaNo."

I was honestly a little surprised by her reaction. Is it that important to "win" NaNo? I mean--it's just a number. And it's fine if your goal is just get a certain number of words on the page. But it's better to get the right words on the page. If you're stalling, or fretting, or worrying--that's one thing. Push through that. But if you know you've gone off the wrong path, don't stay there. 

In short: do what's right for you. I'm still in NaNo, and I still intend to "win." But I'm also still prouder of the 600 words I currently have than the 10k words I had a few days ago. 
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