Sunday, November 29, 2015

NaNo 15: Making Promises

What comes after our 30 days and nights of literary abandon?  A promise to revise, of course.  
Somewhere in the middle of this novel I was looking for inspiration, and I found a video interview of Kate DiCamillo that I’d never seen before. (Which is strange because I’m her biggest fan.)
I was feeling like my novel was really a steaming mess of poop and that it was time to throw in the towel. (I know, I know, “The first draft of anything is shit.”—Earnest Hemingway. Where did that sign go?)
I had poems to write, and they are always sweeter when I first look at them than novels are. I had chapbooks to organize. Contests to enter. Poems to submit. And what about those essay ideas. All of those things were much more interesting than this awful, unplanned, hot mess of a novel I was working on.
But then I saw Kate, and yet again, she changed my life. In the interview, she said that she generally writes two single-spaced pages a day. I write for kids, so for me that’s about 1,400 words a day (pretty close, right?) Then she made the life changing comment. When she revises, she also revises two pages a day. But, get this, they are double-spaced. So it takes her twice as long to revise as it does to write.
Here's the link to the video:
Now, if you’re keeping track, this is my sixth NaNo novel. I’ve done serious revision on two of them, and probably it took me twice as long to revise as it did to write. But I thought that was just me. I thought I was such an awful writer that I had to spend an extra long time on revision.
But Kate has won two Newbury Awards. She’s a genius. She tells stories I wish I could tell. Doesn’t it just flow for her? Aren’t her drafts prettier than mine? Nope, probably not. Not if she has to take twice as long to revise.
So, I gave myself permission (again) to write a really awful book with huge plot holes, unanswered questions, inconsistencies, and factual errors (it’s historical fiction). And then, my writing got easier.
I’m going to finish this. Then I’m going back to my poem a day practice in December and I’m going to let my novel sit quietly under my bed (which is where newly created novels love to live). I’m going to start trying to answer, one at a time, the nearly three hundred questions I’ve written down, things I must know to tell my story true. And come January, I’ll begin to slowly dive back in to find the heart of my novel and then I’ll work, page by page (no more than two a day, Kate says), to make my novel the best story it can be.
The mantra of my dream agency (they represent Kate) is “The world owes you nothing; you owe the world your best work.” So, in the new year, I’ll settle in to make this NaNo novel disaster the best work that I can make it.
I hope you’ll join me. The journey has really only just begun.

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