November has come and gone, and with it the 30 days of writing 1667 words a day called National Novel Writing Month. For the first time in three attempts, I finished, completing 50100 words on 28 November.
I’ve pondered what that accomplishment means over the past few days, and I think I’ve narrowed it down to one word: confidence.
For the first time in a really long time, I’m confident about my writing. I’m confident I can do this if I put my mind to it and stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not suddenly going to be easy now, but I know it can be done.
What’s ironic about this newfound confidence is that this is hardly the first time I’ve written something this long. I finished my draft of my first novel, The Eagle Stone, years ago, and I have two other works that are unfinished but longer.
I think what this NaNoWriMo proved to me, though, is that a dedicated pace will produce a desired result. Writing good fiction in a short period of time is possible if I just do it.
I hope that my success breeds curiosity about writing in other people at the very least. This can be done, you just have to do it.
Day 18 finds me just short of 2/3rds of the way to my goal with 12 days to go. Of course, a busy schedule and a cold/the flu had to intervene along the way, but this story still has legs, and I think it will reach 50,000 words and beyond.
The other day, another writer noted that middles suck, and I am often inclined to agree. I’m also inclined to believe that it its middles that make a story, even if they’re not as memorable as the beginning or the end. I think middles are the part of the story that make it make sense. If the middle doesn’t hang together, then the beginning and end are like islands in a storm tossed sea, disconnected without anything useful between them.
In the end, every successful writer finds his or her own way to solve the problems associated with writing. They find their own sources of ideas, their own way to develop their ideas, their own pace, even their own places to write the best.
Yet the thing they all share in common is actually doing it. It is the act of writing that separates writers from everyone else, whether that writing takes the form of a weblog, a short story, a novel, or any other kind of writing.
This may seem like an obvious thing, but I find that most people I talk to who lament about wanting to be writers aren’t writing. Anything. Not even a journal or ideas scratched on napkins.
The next 30 days are designed to cure that problem once and for all. If you want to write, and if you don’t talk yourself out of it, sit down at your keyboard and pound out 1,667 words or so for the next 30 days. If you do, even if you don’t make it until the end, you will discover amazing things about yourself along the way, and that is a journey that will have been more than worth it once it is complete.
I think one of the most challenging aspects of writing, especially with fiction, is finding how a story will end.
I’ve found that most writers can find beginnings and middles, but most of us find the endings to be elusive. I suspect that this elusivity comes from the fact that the ending of a story often contains the answer to the question “why?”.
For me at least, the end of a story explains why the characters went through all of these things from the characters’ point of view. The ending represents the point, the conclusion to all of the events that proceeded it. It doesn’t even have to be a happy ending for these reasons to be true, but the need for explanation is still there.
While I am writing a story, knowing the ending serves as a kind of lighthouse for the writing process. Knowing the ending helps guide me through the story, especially at parts where it wants to meander or get lost. In a lot of ways, knowing the ending is what helps me generate the beginning and the middle.
Of course, finding the ending can be easier said than done, which is why I think so many writers struggle with the idea, and thereby with writing complete works themselves. I think the solution to this problem is to engage in the active thinking I referred to before when I wrote about how to find ideas.
Very often, I find that the stories that I write that succeed the best are the ones I’ve thought about the most, and in doing that thinking, I discover that I inevitably have to deal with the question of “why is this happening at all?”. Once I deal with that question, the rest of the story seems to flow from that answer.