Friday, November 30, 2012

Finishing NaNoWriMo

Yesterday I finished writing my 50,000 word book as part of the NaNoWriMo writing challenge.

This year, instead of writing a novel in 30 days, I worked on a non-fiction book. It's a collection of essays on different subjects. Here are some of the lessons I learned from this year's writing experience.

First of all, I now know I can do it, and it doesn't feel like such a great effort to achieve this goal compared with the first time I did it in 2010.

Second, I found, as expected, that writing essays is easier for me than writing fiction. Perhaps I am more of an essayist than a fiction writer. I have always found it quite easy to write about any given subject that interested me. At school I think I received the highest marks for Hebrew Composition, and while others struggled to find things to write, I found it easy to structure an essay and write it out. I suppose writing non-fiction is part of my work as a translator, though there I have to write what the text said in the original language rather than make it up from scratch. My blog has also allowed me to practice this sort of writing.

There are important differences between writing fiction and writing non-fiction, and also between having a long-form and short-form structure. In a novel, you have to plan where the story goes and build a narrative that develops throughout the work. In my collection of essays, they were all linked and built on each other to some extent, but it wasn't a linear development. I know that some non-fiction books manage to be structured in a more linear way, with each chapter or section building on previous chapters, but this wasn't that sort of book. Perhaps it will become more linear during the editing process.

Fiction is very specific. It tells the story of events happening to and around specific characters, in a specific setting, over a set period. My non-fiction was trying to be general. What I wrote is supposed to be applicable to the reader's life, and so it couldn't be as specific as fiction. It had to address a wide range of possibilities. I understand that this is something I do in my own thinking: I try to generalize from specific experiences and events. Readers of this blog may recall blog posts like that, where I start with something specific and end up reaching some more general conclusions.

Because I had decided in advance on a list of topics for the book, and knew it would undergo extensive editing after I had written all the essays, this freed me from the need to think about the book as a whole while I was writing it. I knew that the editing process would allow me to put things in the right order, make the necessary connections, and get rid of any repetitive parts.

As I have noted before, the editing process seems more daunting to me than writing, and this is why I know that it's time for me to work harder on this part of the writing profession. I will have to edit this book, and also the first novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo in 2010. I hope to learn a lot from the editing process, and also to learn how to plan and outline books before I start writing.

I didn't manage to write every day during November, and sometimes I had to write two or three times the daily average word count to make up for days I had missed (and I still managed to finish the day before the deadline!). Finding that I could write nearly 5,000 words in one day when I had to proved to me that I can do it, and I intend to keep writing, even when I don't have a writing challenge and can be more flexible with my daily word count.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

November has arrived, and it's time to embark on the annual NaNoWriMo writing challenge, to write a 50,000 words book in 30 days.

This year I'm working on a non-fiction book, despite the word "novel" in the challenge's title (National Novel Writing Month). Since it's no longer "national", I'm stretching the definition of "novel" a bit and using the challenge to write non-fiction. It's still a very personal and creative work, just not a work of fiction.

As with previous years, I prefer not to discuss the contents of my work while it's in process. But I can talk about the process of writing, and hope this will interest fellow writers and other language professionals.

This is a project I've been thinking about doing for a long time. I created a bit of an outline before I started. I wrote a list of 30 subjects that can serve as chapters or sections within the book. I don't know if they will all be of equal length, or whether I will be able to work neatly on one section a day, but the idea of 30 subjects in 30 days seemed like a helpful plan, at least before the fact. I'll have to wait and see how it turns out in practice.

I know that when I've finished writing I'll need a lot of editing. So far, I have little experience in editing my own creative work. I have yet to edit the two novels I have completed in previous NaNoWriMo challenges. I know that this is an important skill to acquire - both the technical aspects of editing (which I do professionally, but not for fiction, which has some different considerations) and the self-discipline of viewing my own writing objectively. I wonder why I have not done this yet for these novels, and what that says about my intentions as a writer...

With this book, it should be possible to rearrange the 30 sections in an order or structure that will start to emerge once they are written. I think I should do this after the whole thing is written and I can see it holistically. I know it may involve a lot of rewriting, but that might be easier when I can move around things I have already written. Editing this non-fiction book might be more similar to the sort of academic editing I do professionally, compared with editing novels, which I have never done.

I have already written more than the recommended minimum today, and feel very positive about this project. I will have more to say about the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction later on.

Good luck to all participants, and to writers everywhere!