NaNoWriMo 2013

It’s that time of year again, when aspiring novelists around the world write a novel in a month. I skipped last year because I was continuing to work on a novel I started in the 2011 event. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m editing the first 70,000 words before moving on to the second half), but I wanted to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to start another novel. I’m too slow a writer to finish one before I start another.

Red notebook and pen as part of the swag from GSoC Mentor Meetup 2013.

Red notebook as part of the swag from GSoC Mentor Meetup 2013.

Last month, I attended the Google Summer of Code mentor meetup and picked up a nice notebook as one of the giveaways. I’ve always done my writing on a computer, but this time I figured I’d try to write my novel longhand.

Part of this is because at work, we recently released a digital edition of the original notebooks in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. As a writer, I find the draft process interesting. None of the deleted text is hidden. It’s all there to be seen even when crossed out. While we don’t have enough information to be certain about the exact order of the edits, having gone through the process of writing a novel (or two) helps give some insight into how the process works. By writing this month’s novel in a paper notebook, I can gain some insight into how Mary might have experienced her writing process.

The first pages of my NaNoWriMo novel.

The first pages of my NaNoWriMo novel.

I’ve notice some other benefits to writing on paper. I don’t edit as much. I might cross out a word and replace it as I go, but once I complete a line of text, I go on to the next and leave it. I don’t have to fight the urge to review and change what I’ve written.

Depending on how this goes, I might do all first drafts on paper and then transcribe them. This reminds me of the process described by Jamie Todd Rubin. After I’ve told myself the story by writing it longhand, I can reassemble the text into the story I can tell everyone else, editing as I transcribe and rearrange it. Another option is to get a manual typewriter, but longhand is quieter.

A last benefit I hope to get from NaNoWriMo is a new habit of writing each day, even if it’s a few hundred words. Two hundred words a day will produce a short novel in a year. I was able to write over 750 words longhand in about an hour this evening.

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James is a software developer and self-published author. He received his B.S. in Math and Physics and his M.A. in English from Texas A&M University. After spending almost two decades in academia, he now works in the Washington, DC, start up world.