Friday, December 03, 2010
What I learned writing a book in a month
I fall squarely into the category of people who are "writing a novel." You know the ones. They say "I'm writing a novel," and everyone smiles and nods supportively because this person has been writing a novel for most of their post-adolescent life. By my count I've started over ten novels. My husband says my obituary will read "author of the twenty-nine most promising first chapters you'll ever read." Ouch.
First, I was going to write a novel when I finished my B.A., then in grad school with all that spare time, then before we had kids, then before we had another baby....you get the idea. I'm a novel procrastinator. I was always getting stuck or not feeling the story or frying a laptop and losing the whole manuscript.
So when NaNoWriMo came along I thought why not? A little competition might be the best medicine for me, so armed with a few hours a week at the library, a flashdrive, and a lot of coffee, I signed up. And dear readers, what do you know, I wrote a book.
Ok, I wrote 50,000 words that need a lot of editing, revision, and rewriting. There's still about 2-3 chapters to write before the story arc is totally complete and everything from plotting to character development to description needs an overhaul. But I discovered a few things along the way that made me realize I have the ability to stop being the novelist I spoke of before and become a real writer.
1. I'm a pantser.
I have wasted a lot of effort on outlining and plotting and scene by scene planning. NaNo forced me to sit down and write. If I wanted to stay on target to meet the 50k goal, I had to write even if I couldn't force the scene I was supposed to write out. The result? I learned that sitting down, picking up where I left off, and writing for 2 hours produced a lot more story than my self-inflicted outline.
2. A blank page is scarier than one that needs editing.
I have 179 pages of typos, poor word choice and in-text comments to reread and revise and it is so much less scary than the blank page ever was. A blank page offers you nothing. A page that needs revision gives you things to build on, ideas that spark more inspiration, and the start to a story.
3. My inner editor is my worst enemy.
My inner editor was always keeping my word count down and causing me to give on MSS. When I stopped fixing typos, chose the word that came to mind over searching for the perfect one and just let go, I wrote like the wind. Striving for perfection slows you down and inhibits creativity.
So wish me luck. I have a book to edit!