Where I live in the mountains of Panama, the only change of season we see is from rainy to dry. This begins to take place in November. There’s a shift in the wind and the town braces itself for the Fiestas Patrias (Panama’s Independence Days). Strings of small plastic flags crisscross the streets and flap with a smacking sound as if applauding you whenever you drive beneath them. Grey clouds hover above the town as barjareque, (not quite rain, but heavier than mist) falls on the tourists and marching bands, covering them with a sparkling layer of microscopic droplets.

November also signals National Novel Writing Month, which I first participated in 2012. I had been wanting to write a novel my whole life, and the only thing that forced me to get a book started and finished was NaNoWriMo.

I completed my first ever book, surprising myself and triggering an addiction to finishing books ever since. Now when the winds of November change and I hear the echoes of the marching bands practicing for the Independence Day parades, I feel like a horse at the starting gate ready to race to my word count with all the other bucking writers.

I think anyone who’s participated in National Novel Writing Month start to look forward to it as a yearly tradition. It’s something to get excited about, and you are not alone in your enthusiasm and anxiety. You can connect with other writers who are on the same crazy train. NaNoWriMo helps to stop the usual procrastinating and put writing first for a whole month.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to participate in the last few years. My job consists of mostly writing now and my creative juices and tolerance for sitting at the computer are wiped out by the time I finish my work for the day. I’m often traveling during this time for the holidays, which makes it difficult to scurry off to some quiet place to write.

I also don’t allow myself to participate because have to stop piling up manuscripts. It’s becoming a problem. I wrote three novels in a mad dash and they are still left rumpled up and tossed aside like piles of dirty laundry on the floor. I have no business writing more Nano novels until I clean these up, right?

But I wonder… just because I wrote them, does that mean they should be published? Is it worth salvaging them? These were my first practice novels, before The Sick Series, when I had no idea what I was doing. Hell, I don’t even know if I should’ve released Sick on the world. I can just leave these drafts in some dark corner of my Dropbox and begin something with my new writing experience. Jack Kerouac’s debut novel was lost until 2011, and thank god it was because it was deemed sophomoric and might have barred him from the literary world.

Then, I decided to revisit the books to do a damage assessment. The story is about two artists – Antoni, who can’t stop the creative outpouring of his soul, and Ona, who is creatively stunted. They frequently talk about the reasons behind making art and what it means to them.

Their wisdom baffles me (did I actually write that?). In the very book I was going to chuck to the side, I received message from my characters. My voice came through them to tell me that maybe the world doesn’t need these books, but that doesn’t matter, because I do. I must finish what I started.

NaNoWriMo has taught me to get the book out. I’m so used to making the 50K a month word count that to this day I write in 1,667 word spurts. But it’s time to face reality and learn how to clean up the messes. Those of you who’ve followed this blog are sick of hearing it. I know a few of you are ready to clobber me over the head if I keep dragging on about The Sculptor.

Believe me, I attempted to revise the first book several times. I did a lot of work and still didn’t get the desired results. I’ve realized that the most important part of writing is rewriting. No matter how experienced a writer is, no one writes a perfect first draft (or second … or third).

All the rewriting and revising methods I’ve tried helped so much, but they still left something missing. Even worse, sometimes I over-rewrote and the story it lost its raw core. That’s because I was trying to control it. Then I ended up completely lost. Now I have to rewrite all these books from top to bottom.

The good news is that I’ve found a secret weapon to rewriting, one that rebuilds the story from within instead of trying to force it into what you think it’s supposed to be.

Stay tuned, I will share it with you soon!

 

  • Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

  • How did you deal with the novels you wrote?

  • What’s your favorite rewriting tip?

  • Have you ever published your NaNoWriMo Novel?

Leave your comments below.

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"Anyone who has ever secretly longed for the significant other of a close friend will immediately identify with this well-written story set in the South of France. The dialog is sharp and the characters believable. The writing is both funny and poignant."
–Max Tomlinson, author of 
The Cain File

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