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  • Writer's pictureCarol Alwood

Nanowrimo and the Power of Writing a "Fun Draft"

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

It's November again, which means mobs of writers are tapping away at their keyboards on a quest to complete 50,000 words by the end of the month. This is a big undertaking, but it doesn't have to be stressful.

If you're participating in Nanowrimo this year, I'd like to encourage you to see this as an opportunity to write a "fun draft" of your novel.

If you're like me, you spent October outlining, and dreaming about your plot and characters. If you've invested this kind of time in the planning process, you may end up feeling disappointed if the second your butt hits the chair on November first, the draft doesn't flow out of you.

Planning is a different kind of beast than drafting. When you plan, it's all about making logical choices. When you draft, there's so much more emotion and imagination involved as your mind enters the fictional world of your story. When I write a draft, it feels like a movie is playing in my mind, and that movie doesn't always follow the rigid guidelines of my plan.

If your experience is similar to mine, I'd like to encourage you to try a new approach to this November. Why not write a "fun draft" of your novel, and see what happens?

Some people call it a discovery draft. I've decided to call it a "fun draft," because it might be the only way for me to come out of November with 50,000 written words. A "fun draft" is an initial, messy version of your novel. It may or may not follow the plans you made. You shouldn't do a lot of overthinking with this draft. Just write it, and see where it leads. While you may not end up keeping a lot of this draft in the final version, you can sort through what you wrote, decide what's best, and your final writing will be richer for it.

While some may consider this a waste of time, I'd like to suggest there are five benefits to taking a looser approach to your writing.

What are the Benefits of Writing a "Fun Draft?"

1. Character voices may become more clear.

Writing unique voices for characters is, in my opinion, one of the greatest challenges in novel writing. How does one go about telling a story with multiple, unique voices, and make the writing seem authentic?

Nanowrimo might just be the time for you to experiment writing your story from different points of view.

Have fun trying out new character voices.

Make lists of vocabulary you'd like to use for different characters. Brainstorm the thoughts, including beliefs and lies, that would be present in different characters' heads. Decide what words, or letters, you won't use for certain characters, and then go nuts. Write several scenes from these different points of view and see which ones you love.

This may be the spring board you need for after November, when you're ready to revise, or write another draft of your novel.

2. You may find an unexpected plot twist.

Sometimes plot twists sneak up on you as much as they do the reader. I love it when this happens. If you stick rigidly to a plan, there may be less chance of a fresh twist presenting itself. One of my favorite things that happens when I'm writing is when I find myself saying, "No way! I never expected that to happen!"

While I've already admitted I'm a bigtime planner, I still like to allow for surprises to surface in my writing.​ If you decide to write a "fun draft," you may find more surprises along the way.

3. You may discover this novel is actually about something else entirely.

Theme is a slippery concept. You can try to plan which theme your story will speak to, but if your first priority is being true to the characters involved, an entirely different message may surface in the end.

Theme will flow naturally from the foundation of your novel. Goals, obstacles, and the mentor's advice will speak to the message in your novel. Sometimes when you plan your novel, you think you can fit in many different things, but when you sit down to write the story, you realize you've got to scale back.

Be patient with your writing. Enjoy the road that leads to a meaningful theme in your story.

4. You'll be freed from the overly critical voices in your head which say, "This draft is crap."

I've seen many posts on social media about stopping the editor's voice in your head during Nanowrimo. This is important, but it's challenging to control. If you do decide to write a "fun draft," you won't need to worry about that critical inner voice because, hey, it's just for fun.

5. In a profession where there's so much competition and so little reward, you might as well enjoy the journey!

Just get out there and write a draft that's fun for you to write. It won't be perfect, but that's okay. You'll discover some of the greatest things about this novel if you loosen up and let the ideas flow.

Happy writing, my friend. May the goal to write those 50,000 words be a good thing in your life. As for me, I've got some words to write, and I'm going to have fun while doing it.

I hope you'll join me!

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