I didn’t know this for sure about myself until I tried NaNoWriMo way back in 2012, when I had this fun idea for a twisted Peter Pan retelling featuring a sexy, brooding pirate boy. That book eventually became Unhooked, but it took me almost two years of revision to turn the mess of a manuscript into the book that finally sold.
I enjoyed the freedom of blasting through words during NaNoWriMo, but I the process of editing that book into something sellable was frustrating. I skipped NaNoWriMo for 2014 and 2015 as I wrote Gathering Deep and the proposal for the book that would eventually become The Last Magician. I didn’t need NaNoWriMo to get words on the page.
And then I tried to actually write The Last Magician.
Now, The Last Magician is a book that has been simmering in the back of my mind for about five years now. I’ve been pulling the pieces of it together bit by bit, and I wrote an excruciatingly detailed synopsis of all the twists and turns of the plot as well as a fairly extensive world building outline. I was ready.
But I couldn’t write the darn thing.
The Last Magician meant to much to me to write. It was too big, too sweeping, too intense, and I felt too close to it. I’d sit for hours and delete more words than I strung together. I was spinning my wheels, getting nowhere.
Enter NaNoWriMo 2015.
After swearing up, down, and backwards that writing without editing just didn’t work for me, I went back to it. I had a friend who had been bugging me to do NaNoWriMo again for the past couple of years, and I finally decided to take her up on the challenge. I went to the website, filled in my book, and had an audience to hold myself accountable. And it worked.
Over the course of November 2015 I pounded out over 50,000 words of The Last Magician, and I think I could finally written them because NaNoWriMo forced me to let go of perfection. Sure, the book still needed to be good, but for one glorious month, I had permission to worry about word count instead of making it good. I had people to hold me accountable, the freedom to get something down instead of the perfect thing down.
When November was done, I wasn’t. NaNoWriMo gave me the boost I needed to get going again. The Last Magician still needed a ton of work, but those 50,000 words helped me to form the book I now have. I’d sworn I couldn’t write without editing as I went…and I was wrong.
NaNoWriMo is coming up again, and I haven’t decided whether I’ll be joining in on the fun again, but The Last Magician has a sequel already contracted. It just might be the boost I need to get that book going as well. After all, letting go of perfection worked the last time.