Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo Week 3; or Now That We're Properly Warmed Up...

Lots of ups and downs this week. A good day of writing on Sunday, followed by a bout of stomach flu/food poisoning on Monday (which also yielded a higher-than-average word count, thanks to having to have something to do between acts of worshiping the porcelain god), followed by a couple of days mired in court intrigue*, and ending up today with a somewhat unplanned trip to the movies.

But in spite of all of that, I am well over 30,000 words into this story, and things are beginning to roll. There is no hope on earth of finishing the story in the next 20,000 words, but at least it will be well begun!

Sadly, this week saw several of my WriMo buddies drop out of the race, for various reasons. I understand that; life happens, and there's no shame in that (says the woman who didn't even try in 2007, because we were refinishing two floors' worth of wood flooring that month).

But in watching the various lists and communities that are part of the NaNoWriMo experience, this week also saw a lot of--to be blunt about it--whining.

I'm not going to post any specific examples here, but some of the common themes I saw this week were:

- I did okay the first day, but I haven't been able to write anything since.
- I get distracted too easily by my job/boyfriend/girlfriend/television shows/lifestyle.
- I just can't find the time to write.
- When I do write, I get bored with my characters/story after five minutes.
- I don't know where my plot is going.

Now, I could address each of these excuses/reasons for not writing, but after I thought about it, I decided that there actually is a common theme among them.

These people aren't writers.

Now, I will be the first to agree that the writer's journey is different for everyone. 1,667 words per day for 30 days is not the be-all and end-all. It's definitely not "The One Right Way To Do It."

But if you want to be a writer, you've got to write. And what struck me about all of these people was that they didn't really want to write. They wanted to sit down at a computer and have a perfect, well-written story magically fall out of the sky and into their keyboards, with little or no effort on their parts.

After all, maybe they don't have the muscle and footwork to be a star linebacker, or the skill and fine motor control of a brain surgeon, or the talent and good looks to be a movie star. But they passed high school English, so that should have taught them everything they needed to know about how to write. Right?

What they don't seem to grasp is that none of these people can do what they do without an investment in certain skills and plenty of practice. You don't just show up at a hospital one morning, put on a surgical gown and some gloves, and start carving away at people's heads. You go to school for many years, and you study and learn and practice.

And if you want to succeed at being a writer, just like those other professions, you have to practice. That means you sit and you write. Maybe you don't have a plot. Maybe your characters are boring. Maybe what you're writing right now will (and should) never see the light of day. Lord knows, buried in the depths of my storage unit are spiral-bound notebooks and floppy diskettes full of writing that no one but me will ever get to read. There's one particularly soap-opera-ish series of stories that I started in college and continued to add to for the next eight years or more that is truly dreadful. Plot? What plot? Characters? Seriously? Can you say, "Cardb0ard"?

BUT...after you do that long enough, then you start to see how bits of plot can come together, how characters can come alive and be made to interact, how pacing works. You might discover that the act of writing can be satisfying in and of itself. Once that happens, you will find the time to write. You will set the distractions aside at least once in a while. You'll learn that you can write even when you don't feel like it.

Maybe you won't write every day. Maybe not even every week, or every November. But you will write.

And that's what separates the writers from the wanna-bes. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, making the words happen.

Okay. I'll get off of the soapbox now.

Just get out there and write something this week. Okay?


* In the story. Not in Real Life(tm).

6 comments:

Sharon said...

I spent the last week or so reading your blog archive, and now I'm going to be brave and post a comment. Perhaps this is the perfect post for me to comment on, because I'm one of those people; I'm a wanna-be, and I know it. And I absolutely agree with you: if you're truly a writer, then you find time to write. Maybe not every day, or even every month, but you find time. I run a small business out of my home, with a baby and a 3-year-old underfoot, and I don't believe that I could write a novel in a month without seriously neglecting my other responsibilities. I could, however, write something almost every day. I thought about trying NaNoWriMo, or rather a scaled-down version, but the timing was bad. It's the end of my busy season and I had client work backed up, I had house guests for the first 2 weeks, and I really wanted to take advantage of the fall weather and take the boys out hiking on the weekends I wasn't working. Most importantly, my story wasn't ready. It appears that I am a plotter, and don't feel ready to write until I have a well-developed road map. I believe that after 20+ years as a wanna-be, I am finally ready to make the transition to developing writer, but I have to do the work and make it happen. NaNoWriMo wasn't for me, and likely never will be, but it did inspire me to set goals. While I haven't been writing a first draft, I have been researching, working through plot problems and writing background materials like chapter summaries and character descriptions. My goal is to complete this preliminary work by the end of December and to have a first draft by the end of 2011. A far more modest goal than NaNoWriMo, but still a huge step for me.

Alayna said...

That's pretty much what's going on, yeah. It's also why I don't write anymore.

About eight years ago, I was writing (poetry, if you can believe it) a lot more often - I hosted a weekly writing group and so on. Then, I took a job working with one Daniel Abraham. Over the course of the next couple years, I watched him make the transition from 'writer with day job' to professional writer (meaning 'writing is the day job'). Watching the amount of work that he put into writing demonstrated to me exactly the kind of work I would need to do to become a professional writer.

About that time, I had a choice - spend my spare time writing a lot, or spend it volunteering for a non-profit. I think you know which one I chose. Not sure it was the right choice, but hey, let's face it, poetry doesn't make the bucks or come with cute boys.

nlriviezzo said...

Another fantastic post! :)

Now back to the NaNo...

Sheila said...

Sharon: Excellent news! Manageable goals are definitely the way to go. Find the way that works for you, because we all know there is no one "Right Way".

So you're a plotter, huh? I have to admit that I'm mostly a "pantser", though I'm becoming more of a plotter as I go along. I don't get too detailed with my plots, though, because sometimes it's nice to have characters surprise you.

Please do keep me posted on how it goes!

Sheila said...

Alayna: Yes, I'm finding more and more that writing is a LOT of work. And I haven't even gotten properly into it yet. And I'll be the first to agree that it's not for everyone. I strongly believe that people should follow their passions. Obviously, not everyone's passion is going to involve writing. That's probably a good thing, actually! :)

Sheila said...

Nicole: Thanks! Glad to hear your word count has been going better these last few days!