Thursday, 18 October 2012

How NaNoWriMo is like knitting a scarf ...

No, really, stick with me here. It is.

When you start knitting, it's pretty hard. Finishing a row with the same number of stitches you started with is an impossible task. Extra stitches appear from nowhere; even though you could swear you'd knitted every single stitch, holes appear at random and with disturbing regularity. Unless you are some sort of knitting prodigy, your first piece of knitting will probably resemble a bedraggled and sorry-looking dishcloth.

For me, learning to write was exactly the same, and I guess I'm not alone.

Chances are your first draft of your first chapter of your very first novel will look equally bedraggled, with holes and diversions and a strange mess in the middle that you've no idea how it started and no clue how to fix it. So what do you do? How to remedy this mess? You keep going, because by the time you've knitted long enough to make a scarf, your stitches will be even and you won't have dropped a stitch for days (OK, maybe hours).

When you finish your first scarf, the only way to improve it might be to rip it back and start again. There are only so many dropped stitched that one can fix. Your second might still have a few holes. You might want to rip back some sections and put them right. Find all the dropped stitches and repair them. But by the time that you make that third scarf, it might just need a good blocking, and it's good to go.

I think of NaNoWriMo as a sequence of scarves. The first was/is a big, holey, patchy nightmare, which one of these days I'm going to sit down and rewrite from scratch (I love my characters and setting too much to waste - much like a lovely yarn). My second was better, but still full of scary moments. It'll take a lot of work to fix, but I don't think I need to pull the whole thing back. And the third? Well, it needed more than blocking. It needed rewrites and edits and critiques and more edits, but now, I have to say, I think it's a really rather lovely scarf, sorry, novel.

So, who knows, maybe scarf number four will just need a quick spin in the washing machine and be good to go... watch this space!

Ellie x

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