I mentioned in my April wrap-up that I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. If you don’t know what Camp NaNoWriMo is, but would like to find out I suggest you either read my post about the event, or visit the event’s website. The event is almost exactly a third of the way through so I thought it would be the perfect time to update blog readers on my writing process.
My current word count is 16,685 words which, as shown in my progress graph, is far ahead of my 30K word goal. I’ve thought of raising my word count goal, but decided not to. I’m keeping my original goal because my main project for this session is a rewrite that I expect to be complete at around 70,000 words, but when I started the session 35,000 of those words had already been written.
As my main goal for the month is not to write a certain number of words but to finish this draft, I want to keep my word count goal low enough that I won’t have words remaining towards my goal when the draft is finished. There is also the fact that this is the longest I’ve ever seen the whole cabin meet its overall goal and I enjoy helping to keep it that way.
It seems odd to write a post about first drafts when my focus for the event is a rewrite, but I have much more experience with my own first drafts than I do edited drafts. Like most other aspects of writing there is no wrong way to write a first draft. There are simply ways that work and ways that don’t. Perhaps the most frustrating part of all this is that some ways that work for others do not work for you. I have, however, noticed trends.
This session my Camp “cabin” is made up of twelve participants of which four including myself have finished a novel length first draft before. What I’ve noticed fairly consistently in this session, past events, and in talking with fellow writers is that those who finish something tend to be the ones who come to terms with the fact that their first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. This is not the only factor, of course, other factors include how much enthusiasm someone has for their idea and where writing fits into their priorities, but these aspects are much harder to measure than a persons tendency to go back and rewrite the first chapter fifty times before chapter two is finished.
There are plenty of successful novelists who edit while writing a first draft, and they are not wrong to do so. Most of these writers have managed to find a balance between making their writing the best it can be the first time around and getting words on paper. To finish a first draft finding finding this balance between quality and quantity is a must.