Today I have a lovely guest post today.
Give a round of applause to Laura Vanderkam!
She’s written a novel named the Cortlandt Boys and it’s about a small town basketball team and I LOVE basketball. Today, she’s sharing with us her writing tips; utilizing NaNoWriMo and writing a novel both fast and slow.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A small town high school basketball team wins the Pennsylvania state championship with an improbable last second three point shot. The Cortlandt Cavaliers celebrate their unlikely victory, but good fortune changes the boys’ worlds in unpredictable ways. This story revisits the characters 10 and 20 years later as the ramifications of their youthful success play out over the course of their lives, forever linking them and the people around them to this little town that has its ways of not quite letting you go.
HOW TO WIRTE A NOVEL: FAST AND SLOW by Laura Vanderkam
A lot of what I write, I write quickly. A blog post doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be done. If an editor assigns me a piece on Halloween in mid-October, dithering on it into November renders it worthless.
But after finishing my novel, The Cortlandt Boys, this past year, I’ve realized that some kinds of writing are best done both quickly and slowly. The two strategies work together to create a better outcome than either would alone.
Here’s the upside of fast: first drafts are always tough. Creating something from nothing is harder than creating something better from something that exists. When stuff is tough, it’s best to just soldier through and get it done as quickly as possible. I wrote the draft of my novel fairly quickly. I gave myself a target of 2000 words per week, but that was just to get over my initial inertia. Soon, I got into a groove and started writing much more. I didn’t do this during November, but I’m a big fan of the National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) concept. People write 50,000 words in this 30-day month with the same mindset. Just get something out there, the sooner the better.
But then it’s time for the virtues of slowness to kick in. I’d written the beginnings of The Cortlandt Boys, a tale of a small town high school basketball team that wins the state championship with a last second three-point shot, then deals with the fall-out from that lucky break for decades, ten years ago. When I came back to the seeds of this tale in 2013, I saw a lot that couldn’t stay — but a few things that could. I wouldn’t have been able to see that a decade ago. I’ve learned a lot about writing since.
Of course, that didn’t mean I was willing to wait for a decade to improve my next draft. Still, every time I thought I was done I would send the novel out to people to read, get their feedback, and wait for a bit. When I came back to the manuscript with fresh eyes, and with this criticism in hand, I’d see new ways of making it better. Then I’d repeat the process. I did this for a year and a half until, when I read my manuscript with fresh eyes the last time, I didn’t find much I wanted to change.
I’m trying to do something similar with my next novel. I wrote a slap-dash draft of something during NaNoWriMo in 2014. I’ll revisit it later this year and see what I can keep. I’ll crank out another draft quickly. And then I’ll let it ripen. Sure, I wish I could rush that process. But better to have something I’m happy with in 2018 than something I’m not thrilled with now.
Laura Vanderkam is the author of a novel, The Cortlandt Boys, and several non-fiction books, including 168 Hours (Portfolio, 2010), What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and the forthcoming I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make The Most Of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015). She blogs daily at www.lauravanderkam.com.
Hope you enjoyed that one!