What NaNoWriMo Can Teach You About Your First Draft

It has been a long time since I’ve written or posted anything here. Once again, the Draft folder finds itself crammed with a number of blank posts with only a few words, or rather, scattered ideas to go by for differentiation.Besides matters that have to do with life and its many troubles, I have been participating in NaNoWriMo.

A while back, I finished my first ever draft during this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo. While I started out that first ever draft with a lot of muddled “hmm”s and “huh”s, the completion of the first draft set up a base for this second draft. I seem to be getting along more efficiently and more with purpose than I did before. That’s why I’m convinced feeling the need to cram 1667 words a day can make one see connections or possibilities that have never existed before (or they have, but they end up stuck in one of the mind’s many nooks and crannies). So without further chatter, here are the things you may learn about your first draft.

1. The Parts to Keep and the Parts to Leave Out

Although many of us may have the urge to toss our drafts into a rarely touched drawer (or a neglected digital folder), our drafts may not necessarily be bad in its whole entirety. There are some parts we can reuse, rewrite or slip in when needed. Therefore, it would be a good idea not to get rid of the first draft or neglect it. There may be an idea/scene or two that you can revamp and improve. Likewise, there may be scenes or events that seemed important in the first draft but have lost their lustre in the second. It’s entirely possible that the story in the second draft has diverted from its original path, and that’s OK too.

2. Things That Your First Draft Lacks

Working on your second draft can be a good chance for you to figure out what the first draft lacked. Whether it be new or reinvented characters, locations, or even subplots that would be wise additions to your story. The first draft may contain the bare bones for the story, but it may lack flair or embellishments that would greatly enhance the reader’s experience. If the first draft is the basis of the story, then the second draft is when you look back to the story you have and find ways to liven it up, to make it more engaging and vivid. This can be a little tricky and provide a few blocks in our writing journey. It also goes against NaNoWriMo’s point of writing without worrying about editing and the rest (though of course, you can choose to edit your novel during NaNoWriMo if you so desire).

3. How Your Characters Act

There’s always that sense of accomplishment that comes when our characters come alive on the page and can, in a way, direct the story with their motivations, goals, and personality. This can come in helpful when we’re unsure where the story should head next or what they would do in certain situations. Unique personalities and authentic characters would make writing fun and make the story a delight to read. If you’re having trouble finding your character’s voice, the first draft can give you some inkling of how they would act and what they would say. Having possibly thrown them into different scenarios by force, this can give you some idea of what your characters are like or how they should be like.

I’m definitely no qualified instructor or anything of the sort. These tips are based on my experience with writing and with NaNoWriMo, and it just may be the same for you. If it isn’t, these can also be things to look out for when you have your first draft in your hands. I hope that you will find this helpful, especially if you start out clueless as to what’s going to happen next like me. Rosario Martinez’s post on The NaNoWriMo Blog about Breaking Your First Draft Apart could also be of some help to dissect that tricky manuscript.

Header photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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