The Writing Process
Yes, it is nearly that time of year for me again. 50,000 words written in 30 days. 36 days and counting.
But why do I participate in Nanowrimo?
I know not everyone believes in the Nano style of writing without correcting or editing for 30 days solid. (I write that way the majority of the time anyway so, it wasn’t a new concept to me.) I’ve heard all kinds of reasons and many more excuses from writer friends about why Nano isn’t for them. Such as a “real” writer doesn’t need a competition to write. Or the infamous “Nano encourages bad writing” which always makes me laugh. But they are not completely wrong.
Nano does encourage bad writing, but only in the sense that everyone’s first draft is a stinking pile of potential that still needs rewrites and editing. Nano encourages the writer to finish the story, not get bogged down in polishing every single word as it comes out along the way. As for the “real” writer… I don’t need challenges or contests to write. I write most days of the year outside of Nano, and while I know some writers only create during Nano, the ones I know spend the rest of the year revising, editing and rewriting – so still writing all year. I’m a writer because I love to write, not because of the way I choose to write and no less real because I use Nano as one of my writing tools. As writers, we are not competitors on opposite sides but rather colleagues. – There will never be enough books in the world, you know! – But I’ve wandered a bit.
Why Nano for me…
It’s the deadline, and the accountability Nano provides. Can I set deadlines for myself? Of course, I learned in college that some of my best work is produced under the pressure of a deadline, but the accountability is another story. Just knowing that my friends, family and fellow writers are cheering me on makes the difference. I don’t want to let them down. Also, I’m a bit competitive, so watching how my fellow writers are doing throughout the challenge keeps a fire under my butt. I love watching my little graph get higher and higher as I write. It becomes a game and brings fun to my writing particularly on days when the story isn’t flowing well.
Is Nano for you?
Maybe or maybe not, but think of participating this year. It’s free, and you have nothing to lose. Even if you don’t make the 50,000 words, even if you only write 1,000 words all month, that’s still 1,000 more words on your novel than you have right now. And you might just surprise yourself.
I have always been a storyteller. I started writing stories as a teenager though I began making them up long before. Only within the last handful of years have I started to seriously pursue writing as a career. Sometimes, I struggle with the feeling that I am utterly inadequate at it, especially as I strive to improve my craft. There are so many people out there to tell you what you should write and how to go about it.
I have learned many things about being a writer and an author over that time. The single most important piece of knowledge I have discovered is this.
Trust yourself, you know what you are doing.
You can learn how to become a better writer, improve your skills through classes and how to books/articles, but no one can tell you how to write your novel.
Your voice and your style are part of your personality, something you develop over time. Your story is unique. It is crafted through your personality.
So, write it down and trust yourself, because you know you better than anyone else. Only you can write your unique story.
It’s that time again! I’m dedicated to writing 15k this session and hopefully that will bring me to the end – or at least close- of the first draft of my current novel. I love Nano because it gives me a deadline to work toward. The fact that it makes me more publicly accountable for my promise means I am less likely to make excuses for not writing as much as I could. Anyone else jumping into the Nano challenge this month?
“I don’t have the time to – insert activity here-.”
“Where do you find the time?”
These are two things I hear a lot when talking about writing and a few other activities I do as well. Have you ever thought about how many ways we use the word time?
run out of time
We can have:
a bad time
a good time
all the time in the world
a time of it
a hard time
an easy time
a short time
a long time
no time at all
One would think that with all this time we have, finding time should be easy, right? By the way we speak, time is a thing, something we can grasp and hold on to, and something that is finite as we can run out of it, yet find or make more of it. However, we all know that time is a perception of our reality. Why else would a dreaded task take an hour and feel like a week, and a beloved several hour long event pass in the blink of an eye?
So my answer is always the same to the first two thoughts.
“You always have the time for something you care about. If you want to (write or – insert activity here-) you don’t have to find the time, you simply do it. The act of making something important will create the time for you.”
I find myself repeating this almost daily as a mother and wife. It’s become a mantra of sorts, I suppose. My children are busy and often involved in whatever is holding their attention (usually not me) and don’t always respond when I speak to them. Because I care that they understand the rules, the guidelines, the instructions etc. that I have just rattled off, I will repeat myself usually precluded with one of the aforementioned questions. I know this is the norm. I’ve heard and seen it in many of my friends’ households and heard it from my own parents when I was a child as well, but recently I have thought about what I mean when I say these words.
I am an over-thinker. As a writer of novels, this is not a bad thing to be. It makes it easier to imagine every possible outcome for my characters. But as a mother and wife I probably spend too much time on why I use that particular set of sentences. In reality I know they hear me. They are not deaf and I do not have a quiet voice or manner about me. What I mean when I ask them this is “Do you understand what is expected of you?”
“Yes Mom, I hear you.” -The most common of the answers to my questions, and usually accompanied by a sigh of frustration.
But that’s not what I really wanted to ask. And just because they heard me doesn’t mean they understood me. So why not just ask them the question I mean?
Because I might not like the answer? Because I might have to explain? Maybe because I feel pressed for time and don’t want to delve into it any deeper. Maybe because it’s habit. I suppose the answers are as infinite and different as the people giving them. But this over-thinking writer is concerned with how it shapes who we are and the world we live in.
“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
I’m sure you’ve all heard that phrase before. Do you all hear it in the Horton the elephant’s voice too? 100% LOL
It doesn’t seem like a difficult concept. But the more I think about it, the more I understand that the world around me rarely follows this advice. We say things we don’t mean all the time, during arguments with our family and friends, to our bosses and coworkers to curry favor, to strangers to be polite. What would the world look like if everyone only said exactly what they meant? Would we all want to live in that world? Would it be more complicated? Or less?
Hmm… sounds like another book idea is in the works. Who wants to help me with research?
I spent a good chunk of the day outside. Anyone that has spent time with me understands this to be something that doesn’t happen often when it’s sunny. I burn and freckle easily, but there were things to do, like wash the windows and plant my wildflower garden, so out I go. I live in the mountains and sunny weather lasts all of three months so if I don’t do it now… Anyway, while I gardened I had some thoughts.
I am a writer. I am a mother. I am a wife, a musician, a friend, and a dozen other things but I am not a gardener. As a kid, my parents gardened. Not just a few flowers here of there but serious gardens of squash, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins and other such edibles that took serious time management skills to keep weeded and watered. My mother grew lilies, tulips, daisies, irises and pansies in several areas around the 2 acres of property they owned. But they all paled in comparison to the jungle she grew indoors. She had every type of houseplant imaginable and they all loved her, growing beautifully under her loving care. So I know a little about what goes into taking care of plants and gardening. But up until a year ago every plant I have ever owned, died. I thought about why that was, while I pulled grass from where it shouldn’t be, and turned soil so it was soft and welcoming for my plants.
What does gardening have to do with writing, you might ask? Let me explain. A story is very much a living thing just like a plant. You can water it and put it in sunlight and it will grow, but if you want it to grow strong you need to nurture it. You have to give it room to expand and become what it is going to be. You need to trim away the dead parts, you need to feed it and coax it into bloom. You have to give it your attention and love.
It’s not enough to just write your story, any more than its enough to just water your plant. You need to spend time on it, be open to letting the story wander and become a living breathing thing. Edit it after you know what it’s going to be not when it’s still a sprout, so you improve its beauty. When you are finished you will have a wonderful strong story.
So, looking back on my experience as a kid and this last year while I have tended a small rose in my home, I realized I am a gardener. I may never be great with plants (though I will keep trying), but I AM a gardener, and what I garden are words.
“She sat amid the clutter of life, buried in the back of an old half-finished basement/root cellar, breathing in the damp sand and years of dust, unaware of anything other than the next word on the page as she pressed the round metal keys methodically with her strong young fingers. The slow but steady clack, snap, clack, snap, clack, snap of the aging typewriter filled the small cemented box with more noise than it had held in years. Its cool dark corners being exposed to harsh lamplight, frightening away the variety of six and eight-legged residents, and bathing the writer in sparkling amber dust motes each time she fidgeted on the tall padded bar stool. The newly handmade, heavily varnished drafting table gleamed in that light, making the dingy shelves and sagging edged boxes spaced around the room appear weathered and ancient by comparison. It was her refuge away from prying eyes and a noisy family that constantly picked at her highly distracted mind, a place where no one ventured unless they had no other choice.
She rolled a new page of neon orange paper into the machine, looked down at the pile of turquoise and purple notebook paper covered in large looping cursive and began again. The story of Rick and Rebekah’s budding romance pulled her back into a place of contentment and safety.”
It’s remarkable how cathartic the writing process can be for me. Stressful day? Write it away. Miffed at the world? Battle it out on the page. Gloomy weather got me down? Fantasy land is just a keyboard away. I suppose it has always been that way. I was an emotional child who tended to wear her heart on her sleeve. So writing was an escape. As a teenager most of my fears and woes could be solved on paper. I wrote angst-ridden poetry and love stories mostly, being a completely average girl back then, and the occasional dream/nightmare turned story. I wrote from the need to pour out the feelings that threatened to overwhelm me. I wrote until it became a habit. Then I wrote because I couldn’t imagine not writing.
I’d like to say that as an adult I no longer need the catharsis. Of course, I would be bald-faced lying if I did. In fact, I actually am more productive in my writing when my life feels like it’s in upheaval, more than any other time. I laugh about it often, because I really hate drama. But I seem to need drama in my life, to put drama on the page. Irritating neighbor that never cleans up after her dogs? Chapter eleven makes its debut. Having to tow people who park across my driveway EVERYDAY? Oh look, a war broke out between good and evil in Chapter twenty! There’s enough drama in my life to write a dozen books and I have the cortisol levels to prove it! So I guess I should be thankful for it all, the annoying to the horrible, because it means I get to do something I can’t imagine my life without, write stories.
I love movies! As a kid, I have several fond memories of going out with my parents to see a show. Stretched out in the back of the station wagon, watching the enormous screen flash at the Drive-in while I tried so very hard to keep my young eyes open, was the best. Later, living in a town that had turned an old theater building into a movie house with its grand architecture and springy seats, made beautiful happy memories. I have loved story telling in every form since I was a child. But I didn’t discover the joy of reading until I was eleven, and the joy of writing my own stories at thirteen. Then I often found “The book is better than the movie” to be true and lost some of my fascination with cinema. (Drive-Ins are still my favorite forum though.)
When I read, I have a little projector in my head that transforms the words on the page into images on a screen and when it’s a really good book, I stop being aware of the words altogether and just see the story. I imagine every detail described as if I am standing right there looking at it. I become so focused that I stop being aware of the world around my physical body until the book is completed or someone/something jars me out of it. It is a wonderful experience, and one I thought everyone in the world had until recently finding out otherwise. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would hate to read; now I think I understand. Going to the movies shared the experience I received when I read the book with those who don’t have the Mind Theater experience.
So tell me, do any of you that enjoy reading not have the Mind Theater experience as you read? If you don’t, what does a good book do for you as you read?