Of course, that title isn’t to insinuate that once you write something during November, you can never take it back. (Gods forbid, because I can’t imagine any of my stories staying there. Ugh.) But no, this is one of the other “rules” of NaNoWriMo that I’ve found people have the hardest time doing: not editing. Not going back and reading everything before you write again. Not fine-tuning every paragraph until it’s perfect, just the way you want it. Not writing three pages and then deciding you don’t like where it’s going and just deleting it all.
It’s not allowed. Inasmuch as anything is disallowed for NaNo, that’s one of them: do not delete your words. Some people go so far as to say that if you misspell something, you shouldn’t even delete that. Rumors of people disabling their delete key altogether. (I’m not quite that severe but…) So what does that mean for preparing?
Well…sometimes you need to get yourself ready for that kind of thing. And that means having a way to battle the Editor when it comes.
The Editor is something that my father and I concocted (sort of; I mean I know we didn’t invent the concept) over the course of who knows how much of my life. When he described it to me, I knew I’d had the same demon lurking over my shoulder, and just didn’t have a name for it.
The Editor is the voice in the back of your mind, telling you that what you’re doing is worthless, and will never amount to anything. It’s the voice telling you to delete the words, to rework the chapter, to scrap the book. It’s never going to be happy with anything you sacrifice to it. The Editor laughs at your misery and feeds on your pain. He does not want to see you get to 50,000 words. He knows that all of those words will be trash, and a first draft is barely worth the light of day, and will gleefully point out each and every mistake you make.
You need to lock the Editor away in a cage for the month of November. (Chris Baty, in No Plot? No Problem! actually offers to house our Inner Editors at the fully licensed, board-certified No Plot? No Problem! Inner Editor Kennel. He’s sure they’ll be very happy there.)
However you want to do it, that’s what needs to happen. Because the Editor is useful, once you have a product for him to tear into. That’s how we get finished drafts–by letting the Editor tear them apart and show us all the places it needs to be rebuilt. Over and over and over again. And that’s important.
But not now. Not in November.
In November, you take your iron cage, laced with rowan and hawthorn and garlic and silver and gold and anything else that can hurt something–anything–and you throw him in there and you lock the door. And you hide that key, somewhere high and safe, until December first. And during those blissful thirty days of November…you create.
Are the words you write going to be trash? Probably. I’ve gone back and looked at first draft NaNo novels and cringed so hard I fell out of my chair. First drafts are supposed to be trash. They should be messy and full of holes. As Chris puts it in NP?NP!: “They were stiff and awkward creatures, riddled with enormous plot holes, their loose ends flopping lewdly. But they were beautiful in their own ungainly way. And absolutely breathtaking in their potential.”
There’s no way to get to that lewdly flopping draft (I love that terminology, I’m sorry!) draft without locking away the Inner Editor. He can nitpick all he wants eleven months out of the year. In November, the Creator reigns supreme. In November, all the plot holes can come out to play and create vortexes of logic so deep we don’t know how to work them out. We don’t need to; not yet. These are the days where we get the words on the page because if we don’t let them out, we risk losing them.
And your words are important. Your stories are important. You are important, and you can’t let the Editor tell you otherwise.
It’s a hell of a month, but it’s worth it, each and every time. Lock the Editor away. Take out your pen, your keyboard, your sword. Let’s go vanquish some words. Only a little more than a week now, Wrimos. Are you ready?