Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Every Month is NANoWriMo

I’ve never officially participated in National November Writing Month. It sounds like a wonderful club to be part of, and I always give a virtual high-five to those who sign up for it. So why am I not in that club? Because for me every month is Writing Month.  People often say I’ m very prolific, and there’s a reason for that. I write a lot.

When I had a full-time job, I wrote during lunch and after work. I wrote my first full novel by vowing that I would come home from work and write five pages a day, no matter how late I had to stay up. I once lived next door to a man who worked full time and had a family. He got up an hour early every morning to write. I don’t know how it worked out for him—if he ever wrote his novel—but I admired his dedication.

The story is that Mary Higgins Clark was left a young widow with four children. Working on a secretary’s salary, she knew she was in trouble. So she got up early every morning to write. Judy Greber used to bribe her young boys to give her writing time. Sophie Littlefield said her friends couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t go for a spa day with them or go out to lunch: she had a novel to write. We all know how those stories worked out.

 I don’t mean you have to give up a social life to be an author. But I do mean you have to be serious enough to choose your social life wisely. I’m grateful for friends who know that when I disappear for days at a time and can’t go to lunch and am often distracted it means I’m writing. I recently went to a talk with two authors who are a couple. They talked about how nice it was to live with someone who understood that when you were looking out the window for an hour, it didn’t mean you weren’t working.

When I’m working on a first draft, I set myself the goal of writing 2,000 words a day. Every day. I know that sounds like a lot, but I’ve heard a couple of very successful authors say that for them it’s 5,000 words. Yeah, that means in their world I’m a slacker. These are not beautiful, perfect, or even acceptable words, but they give me something to work with.  I’ve had people tell me they can’t go onto the next scene until they’ve perfected the one before. That probably works for some people, but more often than not, it means they’ve written the first sixty pages or so and have never gone beyond that.

That’s where NaNoWriMo comes in. People force themselves to write enough words every day to have 50,000 words by the end of the month. It’s a good exercise. I know, because for me any month can be November.


Priscilla said...

Terry, I always enjoy your perspective in your blogs. Yes, it is crucial to take ourselves seriously at a craft in a world that takes it less seriously than volume production. (Craft is just a hobby, right?) We must also learn our most effective pace. Some of us write brilliantly at a fast one. Some of us need the pressure of a deadline just to get that first draft down. And some of us sweat blood over every word and suffer until we make the minimum number of words. Craft is personal. That is what gives it beauty. In the meantime, as you say, just write and do what you need to get it done. Writers never feel complete unless they write.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Told myself TODAY was the day I'd write 2,000 words. So I'm back to it. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration.

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

I admire people who set such incredible writing goals every day. I'm not a Nano person either, and though I don't write every day I do write as often as I can. Along the way, I discovered that I can't just write what comes to mind, as a full length novel, and then go back and edit. I've timed myself on this -- it actually takes me longer than if I write a chapter to as best as I can get it and THEN move onto the next chapter. It's the way my brain works, and it's the process that gets me to The End faster than any other writing style.

The point: find what works best for you and stick with it. It's persistence that makes the difference. :)

Terry said...

Priscilla, since you write such exquisite prose, who can argue with your process? And Terri, you have obviously experimented, and found what works for you. I'm thinking of those people who parse the same few chapters again and again as a way of avoiding moving forward. There's a fear factor. I think for those writers, putting any words down on paper would be freeing. I'll bet NaNoWriMO has helped many of them.