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It turns out a lot of people, myself included, like to call themselves writers. But the secret to being a writer, as it turns out, isn’t in the name but in the doing.
As a creative person, I find it’s easy to get lost in the notion of creativity. I dream things. I imagine things. I talk about things. But for more often than I would like, I fail to execute on the effort.
This is a common refrain among creative types, I know. There are all kinds of reasons it turns out that way, yes. But none of them change the fact that, if you’re not actually creating, it’s really a waste of time.
Us creative types often forget our creativity is work. It’s a job. It’s one percent ecstasy and ninety-nine percent drudgery, like most other things in life. But that one percent is fuel for our souls, and that’s enough to cover the rest.
So, write, writer! Paint, painter. Compose, composer. Sing, singer. Do what you said you were going to do. And keep doing it.
Or, so you wrote 50,000 words. Now what?
I am being honest when I say how easy NaNoWriMo was for me this year. Of course, saying it was easy is a relative claim, but the fact is that this latest 50,000 words came out with less struggle than I have ever experienced writing anything long or short. I suppose that means I have somehow matured as a writer, but the reality of that notion remains to be seen.
The reason I think that is because the endeavor this latest story represents only begins with the effort of NaNoWriMo. It turns out that, as a writer, I am far more like a painter adding layers to a painting than I am a sculptor carving away stone or clay. What this means is that the story I have now still needs a lot of work to be the kind of story you’d expect to see in a book.
What does that mean? Well, first, I’m going to let it just sit for a bit. That may mean several days or several weeks, but after having expended so much effort, I find that it is good to just let the story age some before I do anything else with it.
Second, I have to compile the writing I’ve done into a readable format. It turns out that I wrote the entire story as notes in Evernote. This is basically that modern equivalent of writing a story on note cards, and it gives me the advantage of being able to easily reorder scenes as I go through my first rewrite process.
Third, I will do my first edit/rewrite. I know a lot of authors like to print out and mark up copies of their rough draft, but as I’ve noted, I tend to write like a painter rather than a sculptor, so my rough draft tends to be a lot more like a very long outline than a true story. Once I’ve completed that rewrite, I will print the story out, read it through, then mark it up.
Fourth, I will take that marked draft and type the whole story back into a new document. Yes, that means I will write the entire story again, using my draft as the source. I know a lot of people wonder why I would expend that much effort, but what I have discovered is that typing the story again forces me to revisit and rethink every single word. It is the best editing tool I have ever encountered for the way I write. Depending on the story–this happens often with short fiction I write–I could end up repeating this process more than once.
Along the way, I may show my efforts to several people or groups of people to get comments on what they think about the story as it progresses. I find that it is good to get those views along the way because other people tend to notice the plot holes I’m ignoring or other issues the story might have for a reader.
Finally, once I’ve edited and rewritten, and tweaked enough, I will take the plunge to try to get the story published. I’ve never reached this step with any long fiction I’ve ever written, and that’s saying something given that I have at least four stories somewhere along the process I describe above.
So, there is a brief outline of what happens after NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, this year’s success will prove as easy to see all the way through as it was to write for the first time.
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.
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.
After last year’s successful performance during NaNoWriMo, the question before me is whether to try again this year. The biggest problem with doing so is the investment it takes to write 1,667 words on a particular subject when that has not been my habit up until now.
And, that, perhaps, speaks to a bigger problem: people who claim to want to write but who are not writing. Right now, I’m one of them. I can make all the excuses in the world for why that is so, but in the end I’m just another writer who’s not writing.
So, to NaNoWri or not to NaNoWri… I have fourteen days to decide.
Granted I haven’t written here for a while, but I have been writing since the last time I posted. So much so, that I have decided to declare May the first arbitrary Dennis’s Novel Writing Month (DeNoWriMo I). Over the next 31 days, I plan to churn out 50,000 or so words on a project I have been working on–on and off–since last year’s NaNoWriMo. If May goes well, I may well declare June DeNoWriMo II.
What’s the point of all of this? Well, my hope is that I will have something to report by the end of this year, but you will just have to stay tuned. And, while you’re waiting, why not try YoNoWriMo (your own Novel Writing Month).
I find that it is very easy as a writer to lose one’s focus or to have far too broad of a focus. For me, that lack of focus usually comes from my obsession with writing a novel.
The problem is that–at least I suspect the problem is that–I am not a novel writer in the classic sense of the idea. I cannot nor do I usually sit down and write copious amounts of words every day that can eventually come to represent a novel. Instead, I find that I am more of a vignette writer: someone who write short bursts of fiction, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, but rarely of the kind that can be considered a novel.
As a result, I have spun my wheels for almost a decade now trying to finish a novel while some of my widest reaching and most successful works have been short stories that I finished in my characteristic vignette style. Over the past several months, that reality in my writing has come into sharp focus, and I cannot help but pursue the path that focus reveals.
The latter is not to say that I am abandoning my obsession with writing a novel. To the contrary, I am changing my approach to writing a novel that better fits the way I write and why I write that way. The objective remains the same even if the route is different.
So, what is your obsession in writing? What causes you to lose focus? What kind of writing are you the best at? The worst at? What helps you regain your focus?
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.