Why I'm Doing NaNoWriMo When I "Should" Be Editing

 Here we go again...5 years later:

Other appropriate titles for this post could be "How My Literary Aspirations Derailed" or "How Melissa Lost Her Mind" or even "The Cliffs of Insanity." But that last one might be a copyright infringement.

Why would a writer decide to begin a brand new project when she was ready to publish two weeks ago? Minus the cash and a couple more drafts, of course.

Well, you see, it's like this...

Two weeks ago, the only beta readers who'd completed the novel and offered feedback were family members.

Family members are cheerleaders. Newbie writers need cheerleaders so our insecurities don't smear us over toast for second breakfast. But while cheerleaders are necessary and awesome, they're biased. They root for the home team even when the home team sucks. (I'd post a pic of the Dallas Cowboys' cheerleaders here, but they don't wear enough clothes.)

Not that my book sucks. It doesn't. Everyone likes it. Or at least, they say they do.

Here's what bothered me--no one loved it. Call me vain, but it's kind of important to me that some people love it.

I didn't understand the reason until objective feedback began rolling in. Which, of course, isn't nearly as much fun as cheerleader feedback. But it's absolutely vital if you want to produce a good story.

Beta Reader 1: "Enjoyed Eleora very much." Felt it was almost ready for publication, but wanted more context for the villain and the lore. 
Beta Reader 2: Liked it. Said it was "intense."
Beta Reader 3: Liked it. Wanted more history of the characters and lore. Felt the pacing was too fast and a bit choppy in places she wanted to linger. Felt the world needed to be fleshed out more. Thought it was an earlier draft than it actually was.
Beta Reader 4: Thought it was great, but the pacing was rushed. She wanted more background about two main characters' relationship, and felt all the characters could be developed, especially the main characters. Here's the real kicker--it seemed to her I had written two books instead of one.

My initial response to Beta Reader 4: *blink, blink*

I wasn't immediately sure Beta Reader 4 was right, but I took the note. She has a great handle on what makes a good book, and I had prayed for fruitful feedback from this particular reader. I couldn't afford to dismiss anything she said without further thought and prayer. I outlined a prequel novella to Eleora, secretly hoping that would be enough so I wouldn't have to rewrite the thing. AGAIN.

BUT. I'd rather take my time and write a great book than rush to produce a good one.

Or a bad one, which Eleora, as is, may very well be.

Fortunately, God is pretty gentle with me. I was going full speed ahead--HUZZAH!!--then between beta readers 2 and 3, I felt a familiar Spirit signal--Slow down. Relax. Wait.

At first, I thought the message had to do with money. It costs a minimum of $2,000 to self-publish well, and we don't have $2,000 lying around at the moment. But it quickly became apparent the flashing yellow light had to do with the writing, not the cash.

"Wait" is a hard message to receive, especially when the problem lies with me, but it better prepared me to receive Beta Reader 3's perspective that Eleora was still in an early draft. (Though it was the fourth!) Beta Reader 3's perspective helped me better receive Beta Reader 4's. And Beta Reader 4 prepared me to be edited by author/blogger/editor Kristen Lamb.

Back in August, I signed up for Kristen's "First Five Pages" writing class, and bought the platinum package to receive 40 pages of edits. Who better to speak into my work than a writing professional/stranger/give-it-to-you-straight-burn-and-all kind of gal?

Kristen Lamb's editing has been fondly dubbed "The Death Star Treatment" by someone far wittier than me. It's an apt description. My favorite phrases from Kristen's edit are "The uncle is a mustache-twirler. He's so evil, I don't buy it. I'd put the book down," "Ew. Gross imagery," and "This character is too dumb to live."

I'm happy to say I survived "The Death Star Treatment"--without tears!--which is more than I can say for the planet Alderaan. In Alderaan's defense, I've had lots of practice.

Kristen knows what she's talking about. The problems are there. I just didn't see them until she pointed them out. So tactfully. With maple syrup, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.

In all seriousness, Kristen's heart is to help writers produce the best product possible so the trolls don't eat us alive (aaaaaaand to prepare us for when they do anyway.)

And she didn't leave me without encouragement. She said I totally hooked her in some places. There were times she had to put the book down to tend to something and didn't want to. That my prose is (mostly) pretty. That I have real talent. That I can, in fact, write. So she left me in a good place, ready to fix my problems.

To prepare for the following plot consult, I prayed. Odd way to prepare, you may think, but everything I've asked of the Lord concerning this book, He's done. Why stop?

This time, I asked for three things:

1) That Kristen would be God's mouthpiece to me concerning my story.
2) That Kristen and I would connect and like each other. (Writers gotta have writer friends.)
3) That God would use Kristen to let me know whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo, which I had been considering since meeting with Beta Reader 4.

Within the first 15 minutes of the consult, Kristen diagnosed my problem--I have five or six stories crammed into 400 pages. Just as Beta Reader 4 suggested. So we took the first 40 pages, which was the section she read, and plotted it out into a full-length novel.

Oh, yeah. (Check out my premise here.)

So I said, "I'm guessing, I should shelf the bulk of my book for now and focus on this."

Kristen: "Uh, yeah! This should be your NaNo Novel. It's a great story. If you don't write it, I will."

After this, she took time to get to know me. We have a lot in common--a shared faith in Jesus, health issues, a clean-eating lifestyle, a book crush on Mr. Darcy. At one point she laughed and said, "By the end of this, we'll be telling each other our deepest, darkest secrets and braiding each other's hair."

I love her. Sarcasm, bluntness, and all.

And I love the Lord. He's so incredibly good. So faithful.

And that's why I'm participating in NaNoWriMo when I "should" be editing my novel.

Beta Reader 3 sent this text after I told her my plans:

This process is fascinating to me. Grueling, and maybe even sanctifying, for you, but fascinating as a 3rd party participant.

True, dat. The grueling, sanctifying part, anyway.

I don't love that I need to write another book and do a major rewrite on Eleora before I can, in good conscience, place it in your hands. Waiting, working (and reworking and reworking and reworking)--it's hard. But it's life.

(Which brings me to a small tangent: Writers aren't the only ones who need beta readers. We all need someone to edit our lives. I encourage you to give someone, maybe a handful of people, permission to offer insight into your story because we just don't possess the objectivity to see ourselves as we are.)

All in all, this ripping apart of my soul manuscript isn't such a bad thing. Creating something new is WAY more fun than editing.

Why do this...

when I could do this...

EVEN if I end up like this?

Speaking of not being alone, if you have a novel burning inside of you, why don't you join me and the 300k+ other writers who will be writing themselves into a frenzy next month? Sign up here. If you're 17 or younger, sign up for the Young Writers Program here. Make me your writing buddy, and we'll encourage each other all month long!

Do you have an idea for a novel? Have you ever participated or considered participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you ever won NaNoWriMo? Do you need a few tips to get going or have writing tips to pass along? Share your thoughts, questions, and experience in the comments below!