Shades of Milk and Honey was a NaNoWriMo novel

I recently overheard some professional writers talking about NaNoWriMo and a number of them thought it was a waste of time and that the folks who did it were wannabes.

Bullshit.

When you are getting your legs, writing long form is really intimidating. The internal editor kicks in and will eat your brain alive. My first novel took me ten years to write and it sucks.

The second novel, I wrote a chapter a week for my niece and nephew. It sucks less. The lesson here isn’t that writing faster is better, it’s that it takes time to learn to write — or more accurately, it takes writing.  NaNoWriMo is a good way to get into the saddle and write.

For me, NaNoWriMo does two things. It turns my internal editor off and it gives me a deadline to write to.  You know what? 2000 words a day is dead simple and I’d never have realized how easy it was to maintain that pace if I hadn’t given it a try.

I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo three times and gave myself that structure for a fourth novel because I like writing to a deadline.

Here’s how I approached NaNoWriMo when I wrote Shades of Milk and Honey.

  1. I spend the months leading up to November making plans.
  2. I cranked out the first 50,000 in November, adjusting the plan as necessary.
  3. I stopped. Reread what I’d written and evaluated the overall structure.
  4. I wrote the remaining part of the novel over a three-month period, which involved throwing out six chapters equaling 20,000 words.
  5. Edited.

The point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to have a finished, ready-to-submit novel on December 1. It’s to get that first draft down on the page and stop talking about writing it someday.

And now while I’m off to do my wordcount for the day, I thought I’d share the first unedited chapter of Shades of Milk and Honey as it appeared in the wild rush of NaNoWrimo 2006.

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