Saturday, November 30, 2013

To Drawer or Not to Drawer

November 30: You found it in a drawer -- Judy Reeves, the revised edition of A Writer's Book of Days

As a youngster I wrote stories that I never showed anyone. I imagined them, scribbled them down, put the pages in a folder and hid them in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I did this until there were so many folders in the drawer that there was no room for clothes on top to hide them. I moved my folders to a cardboard box and stuck that under my bed, at least until that box filled up and I had to get another, and then another, and finally there was no more room under my bed and I had to put the boxes in my closet.

At this point the two sisters with whom I shared my room began (quite understandably) to get very annoyed with all the space I was hogging with my boxes. My grandmother helped me move some of them into the attic, and my mother bought me an old used typewriter, which helped condense my scribbled stories into smaller batches. Still, when I finally grew up and moved into my own place, I brought with me about forty boxes just like this one:

For the past twenty-nine days you NaNoWriMo'ers have been writing your November novels and hoping to cross the finish line today. Many of you probably have already won; some of you may end this effort with less than 50K. Whatever your expectations were, and wherever you finish tonight with your story, however, you should feel proud of what you've accomplished. It takes a lot of courage and determination to make a dream into a story.

You may also be thinking about what you'll do in the future with your NaNoWriMo novel. Over the years here at PBW I've talked about editing and rewriting and other ways to improve a story, and I encourage all of you to keep working on your book in the weeks and months ahead. If you can do this much in a month, think about what more you can do in three months, or six months, or a year.

There's also the question of what drawer you'll hide it in. Yes, some of you will never show this story to anyone, and that's okay. You have the right to keep your stories to yourself, if that's what you really want. Put them in a drawer, stick them under your bed or in your closet, and they'll be safe, and you'll be safe, and no one ever has to know about them. You'll never have to deal with rejection or criticism; you can write for your own pleasure. You're absolutely allowed to do that.

So what's the point? Well, if all writers did that -- if we hid everything we wrote in drawers and boxes and refused to let anyone see them -- there would be no books in the world. There would only be drawers filled with folders and boxes stuffed under beds.

How did you do with NaNoWriMo this year? Let us know in comments.


  1. Great topic and it certainly applies to me.

    Another Nanowrimo "win" for me which makes me happy but I have yet to edit any of my stories. I've taken classes (thanks Holly Lisle) and studied lots of other bloggers (thanks pbwriter) and read lots of books on editing, etc. but...

    In a way I have not yet felt confident to share my stories with others (have rarely let anyone read them...) but maybe this year. Right.

    I feel like this could be the year I actually edit but I'll see.
    Thanks for the encouragement... much obliged.


    1. Congrats on winning NaNoWriMo -- after writing like mad for the entire month there is nothing that feels quite as nice as crossing that 50K finish line. :)

      Effective self-editing is probably one of the most valuable skills you can develop to serve you as a professional writer (I'd rank it right after cultivating the ability to create on demand.) To me it's also one of the toughest aspects of the writing process, which is probably why I didn't edit anything I wrote for probably the first ten years of my writing life.

      I find editing small portions daily makes it less painful, and gives me a chance to gradually build some emotional distance between me and the work I've completed. You also might try editing just one chapter and then take a significant time break (or maybe write something new) before you go back and edit another chapter.

  2. I didn't do NaNoWriMo this year, but it was a productive month. And I second what you said about sharing the writing. I know there have been some great stories written this month and I'm looking forward to reading some of them.

    1. I was a bit jealous of everyone who NaNo'ed this year, but I had a tough month to manage work-wise. Like you I'm hoping to see some of these November books on the shelves in the future -- I need more good stories to read!

  3. I won NaNoWriMo. It was my first and I will most certainly do it again next year. I do have a lot of my writing hidden away in a file but they are incomplete pieces that I hope to make use of them in the future. I will only show my latest story to a couple of people the story is slightly risqué.

    1. Congratulations on winning your very first NaNoWriMo, Kerry -- that in itself says something about your determination and devotion to the craft.

      It's still very rare for me to show my work to anyone before it's published; I've had some negative experiences in the past with that. I do have a very small circle of trusted colleagues I will go to if I'm really not sure about something I've written, but I almost always keep my work to myself until I'm ready to submit a finish manuscript for consideration. This is not to say that it's wrong to share with a critique partner or group; for some writers that kind of thing is very helpful. I guess you really don't know if it will benefit you until you try it.

  4. :) I've still got some of the old notebooks I wrote my earliest stories in. Some suck so bad they'll never see the light of day. One, though, has some promise, I think. If I ever get brave enough to tear it apart and try to piece it back together.