Archive for November, 2011

[10136]

I have failed at NaNoWriMo 2011, yet as harsh as that might sound, I consider such a failure a great success. Why celebrate failure? Because sometimes we have to fail to learn to succeed.

For me, this year was an attempt to explore the process of writing rather than to write. What I discovered over the past 26 days is that I very much do have a process when it comes to writing, and when I follow that process, it’s magic. When I don’t, I’m destined to fail.

I won’t bore you with the details of what I’ve discovered about how I write simply because I believe that process is unique to every writer. But, now I know more about mine, and because I do, I have a greater chance at succeeding in the future.

The takeaway from this is that it is as important to know how we write as it is to know how to write. We can read a hundred books and go to a hundred workshops, but until we stop and understand what works for us as individuals, we cannot succeed.

So, find out about yourself. It’ll help you and it will definitely help your writing.

DLH

[10349]

Writing has to be one of the most agonizing undertakings anyone can set his mind to, especially since so many people do not consider it a “real” job. That real job question is important because it factors into the reason that so many talented writers find themselves writing in the wee hours of the morning or night, on their lunch breaks, or at other most inopportune times in between their efforts to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves.

I’m not saying that writers should be getting handouts, yet I cannot help but notice that the creative enterprise in the United States suffers from a clear lack of public support, even from people who know and condone what creative people are doing. Whether someone is building the next social media giant, useful technology, the next great work of art, or the great American novel, the public romance is of creative people living in creative slums clawing their way toward fantastic success by the sheer force of their own will.

A lot of great ideas die that way.

If I am not saying that creative people should be getting handouts, what am I saying? Well, frankly, I’m saying they should be getting support. For example, 15 days into NaNoWriMo, the Office of Letters and Light has only raised $431,982.51 of its $1.1 million goal to help writers young and old realize their creative gifts through events like NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy. While the laudable organization Kickstarter has raised millions for start-up creative ideas, it should be raising billions.

Before the 20th century, it was a common thing for people to support the work of creative people–not just writers or artists, but engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs of all kinds–in their efforts to create with things as simple as encouragement and as significant as room and board and financial support. We’ve lost that ideal as a society, both in the United States and in the West in general, and so creativity is dying a slow, painful death.

I am not telling anyone they have to do anything, but I am asking everyone to consider something. Think about the things you enjoy, your favorite television shows, movies, books, magazines, works of art, buildings, or whatever. Now, ask yourself how any of them could exist if you do not support their existence. Now, consider how your next favorite thing can possibly come into existence without some kind of support. Do you see a place for yourself in that consideration?

DLH

PS: You can be one of the people who makes a difference, and you’ll get a benefit out of it too. If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post what I wrote for NaNoWriMo on December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.

[9860]

A week has passed since National Novel Writing Month began, and so far, I’m behind and having to work really, really hard to make this story I’m writing work.

And that’s ok.

What I have discovered over the past week is that there is a lot more to writing and to my style of writing than I originally allowed for. I tend to develop my stories in layers, often from a central premise, so that the layers become wider and wider circles, one covering over the one previous.

Why does that matter? Because now I understand something I haven’t for years: why my stories always seem unfinished after my first attempt at them. That’s because they are.

Now, how does that help me? Well, for one, it is making me realize that I need to loosen up a whole lot more while working on my first drafts. I need to let the story flow more, let it take wrong turns, let characters grow, appear, and disappear as necessary until I finally have a workable draft. I also need to focus more on developing my idea before I start writing so that I have a better framework to hang the whole story on.

And why should you care? Because I want you to see that writing is not just about creativity, inspiration, and desire. It’s also about style and craft and technique. Successful writers have to have both if they are going to succeed, and learning how to develop all aspects of your writing cannot help but help you succeed.

DLH

PS: If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post my story December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.

[6145 words]

Sometimes, if you talk to enough writers, you’ll hear one of them say something about a story writing itself. In short, what they mean is that the idea they have appears to them–or they’ve worked it over enough–that it seems to spring onto the page fully formed like Athena springing from Zeus’s skull.

This idea of a story springing forth fully formed and landing on the page in its final form is so appealing that it has become a sort of mythology among writers, especially since the great Romantic era of the late 18th century. In fact, this idea has taken so much hold, along with the idea of the solitary genius, that most writers, even ones who should know better, continue to believe it is true.

I’m here to tell you that it’s hogwash.

Writing, like any other great undertaking, is a painful and difficult enterprise more akin to building a road through a traceless jungle or or intractable desert than to the birth of a fully-formed goddess. Yet, it is the nature of that enterprise that forms the appeal for those who stick writing out.

I have found that writing, at least for me, is a form of asceticism, a forming of the mind–and even the body–into something that it otherwise would not be. For me, and I suspect for most writers, this process and experience may be worth more than the finished product itself.

So, if you are trying to write and it is hard, my advice to you is not to worry about it. There will be times when the words come easy. There will be times when the words come hard. But either way, the process will shape you, and as it shapes you it will shape the words. When it is through, you will have a masterpiece, both in your work and in yourself.

DLH

PS: If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post my story December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.

[1442 words]

One of my goals in this year’s NaNoWriMo is to explore how I create. It sounds like a lofty goal, but what I want to do is technically analyze how I create a story, and in this case I am doing so under the gun of having to develop the entire story over the next 30 days.

Why do that? Because writing is more about hard work and determination than it is about inspiration when it comes to getting things finished and published. Understanding the guts of how that process works cannot help but make the hard work and determination easier.

On the other hand, it looks like this story is going to be like pulling teeth because I wasn’t prepared ahead of time. Over the next weeks, I hope to document that process for all of us. I hope you’ll follow along.

DLH

PS: If you want to read the final product of my NaNoWriMo 2011 effort, you can help make that happen by donating to NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light through my fundraising page. If I reach $250, I will post my story December 1st, and if I reach $500, I will also post an expanded version of my preview story January 1st.