Why you should not attempt NaNoWriMo when you’re writing a second draft

I had a plan in October. I was going to use the days of November (National Novel Writing Month) to focus on the missing scenes in the first draft of my novel and fill in the blanks. It was such a simple plan, elegant really. And then it snarled up like last year’s strands of Christmas lights.

In my mind my first draft was actually more than elaborate notes that stumble and trip their way to the story’s end. Now, when I’m actually re-reading and wrestling with each chapter, I find that it’s not just missing scenes, but full-fledged alternate timelines I’m dealing with. Why the heck have I sprung forward from one particular scene I liked with three different concluding scenes? Why is the same character in two different places at the same time? Why is my main character so stupid? Bertie Wooster could figure out this mystery in chapter 5!

And one critical chapter is missing. Just missing. I’ve written it. I remember it well but cannot find it now. Did I copy and paste or save as or delete it? Who knows.

This I know: I am losing time by hunting for missing chapters and trying to untangle timelines. The only way I’m going to make 50,000 words by November 30th is if I stick to the original plan. Fill in the holes. Just complete the scene. Don’t edit yet (as if you could!).

The monstrous text file I will submit for validation will make no sense to anyone else who reads it. That’s okay. It will help me get to a real solid draft. At least I don’t have to wonder what I’ll be doing in December or January, or probably March. The winter will be spent editing this mess.

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