Thursday, November 14, 2013

Obligatory NaNo Update and musings.

I didn't originally plan to do this.  I wasn't going to write a nano-post.  I just meant to quietly do my writing and see what came of it.  But. . . it's kind of all-absorbing, and I am learning a bunch about myself and my writing, so of course I want to talk about it.  That's the problem with us writer types.  Words, words, words.

So, my plan going into this was to do what I needed to do first, and start when I was ready to start, and keep my focus on writing every day rather than word count.  On the eve of NaNo, that still looked like my plan.  My outline was a bit dim in my mind, I wasn't done with the edits on the previous book (to which my NaNo novel is a sequel), and there was that whole election thing.

Then everyone started talking about it.  People were queuing up to start writing at midnight (not me.  Never me.  I am no night owl).  So I kicked it into high gear, got the edits done mid-morning on the first, re-read my outline and decided it was probably adequate (way more than I've ever worked from before), wrote the one-page synopses of both books, and made a start.  By the time I knocked off to have lunch and a swim, I'd written several hundred words.  A nice start.

But something else happened.  I have always pretty much stuck to writing by myself in a room, often when I'm the only one in the house.  I certainly couldn't write when my youngest son was sitting at the computer across the desk from me.  Or when I'm tired from a long day and a lot of exercise.  Only, that night I wanted to write some more, so after my swim and an hour or two precinct walking, and making dinner and all, I sat down, ignored the teen, and wrote.

By the end of Day one I had learned a couple of things about myself that will make me a more productive writer, and possibly a better one:
1. I CAN sit and edit my own stuff for long periods of time.  It gets easier, too.  At some point you can be professional about it, at least a little bit, and work at it as though it was a job, not some dripping, bleeding bit of yourself that you've just hacked out of your heart.
2. I don't have to have total solitude and perfect conditions to write.  The funny thing is, I KNEW this.  For years I've taken my writing to coffee shops when I want to bribe myself.  What I had to prove was that I could ignore family as well as I ignore strangers, and ignore my own mess like I ignore the dishes some jerk left on the next table at Starbucks.

By the time the weekend was over, I was averaging about 2300 words a day, and had proven/learned a few more things:
3.  The more I write the more I want to write.
4.  An outline really does help.
5.  Writing every day and in large chunks makes it really easy to keep the story in mind.  Much more efficient than writing a bit every few weeks or months.
6.  I can write in 600-1000 word sessions, and still get the chores done. 
7.  That pain in my wrist isn't going away.

I could go on.  Maybe.  The pain in the wrist hasn't gone away, so I have to be careful.  But if the idea of NaNo was to find out if I could write like it's my job (which was the point, for me), I've already found out.  And knowing that, I know I can keep going, and that the end of November won't change much.  I'll write until the draft is done.  Then I'll edit like it's my job (on some other work; this one will need to steep for a while in its own filth), and write some more. . . because once you prove you can, there's no point in saying "I can't."

Wherever you are, just write!
I have to address a couple of common doubts/criticisms of NaNo before I quit.
1.  Writing so fast makes for really bad writing.  Want to know a secret?  Writing really slowly made for some bad writing, too.  Squeezing out little bits here and there, rather than working on it like it's what I'm working on, never made a good first draft.  It's a first draft.  It's not going to be good no matter how I write it.  Yes, if people think that their work is done on Dec. 1, they will have nothing but bad drafts, and probably not even complete ones. But if a writer understands that, there's nothing wrong with writing. . . at a pace that many if not most professional writers consider normal.

2.  NaNo has too many rules.  So ignore them.  I've gone back and changed things.  I'm here to be a writer, not to follow rules.  So I do what needs to be done to write the book.  Sometimes that means going back and adjusting the early part to make the later part work.  You can leave that to December if you want.  I don't trust my memory and want to fix it now.  It's all good.

Finally, for some of the blogs about NaNo that are keeping me entertained (not necessarily suited to young people):
M.L. Swift on what we'll have when we're done.
Gus Sanchez's Nano Survival Kit.  Check out the posts either side of it, too.
And, of course, Chuck Wendig's NaNo Dialogs, of which there have been many already.  My favorite is this  (warning: crude, crass, rude and hilarious).

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