NaNoWriMo: Perfection Versus Productivity

The NaNoWriMo writing project is going very nicely: after 18 days, I've written 46,102 words, so getting to the basic target of a complete novel of at least 50,000 words seems very achievable. But that doesn't mean I don't get occasional pangs about the approach I've taken.

Picture by vastervikskommun

Great writing requires lots of tweaking and occasional flashes of genius, but even if you schedule two hours a day, you don't get much chance to do either. I'm pleased with the fact that I'm going to reach the target, but I'm increasingly worried that I should be spending more time fixing what I've already got. I got a guilt spasm triggered by this quote from a recent interview with ABBA songwriting mastermind Bjorn Ulvaeus, for instance:

At least 95% that came out was rubbish! It is the most important part of the creative process, to clear out that which wasn’t agreeable. Other groups maybe worked to a 50% margin. Not us. We – and Benny was almost worse than me – were determined to never lower the bar. We were after that huge high, the feeling of extreme happiness that we have something really damn good. So we would mercilessly cast aside the crap!

I'd love that feeling of "extreme happiness", but right now it seems my best way to get it will be to get the main text finished up, so I can luxuriate again in making that text better.

Bjorn discusses the creative process [icethesite]


    Finish first, then edit.

    I breached the mythical 50,000 words on Monday and have barely written anything since. There's a perfectly reasonable excuse for me to go back and edit things before finishing the plot, but there's also the fact that if I do that, trying to finish the plot will be so much harder because I will be holding the new material to the same standards as the edited material.

    One of the Brisbane MLs likes to keep reminding me that "you can't edit a blank page", I'm simply extending that thought to "you can't edit an unfinished story."

    The only real benefit of having not written much this week is that I've been able to step back and realise some changes I need to make going forwards.

    According to Bjorn only 5% was worthwhile but I've always thought that 100% of ABBA's music that I've heard was crap - does that mean that 195% of their music is crap? :-)

    You should never gauge yourself on what ABBA say.

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