Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lasting Lessons From NaNoWriMo

From the time I decided to treat this writing thing like a job, not a hobby, I've been sitting my ass in a chair for sprawling hours at a time and forcing my fingers onto the keyboard with decent results. I quickly got into a groove of sorts: editing whatever I wrote the day before and then starting on new material, usually working from a detailed outline. Thanks to this process, I've found that writer's block is mostly a prettied up way of saying 'plain old loss of focus'--the cure is keeping that ass in that seat. But what about quality of work, not just quantity? I used to worry a great deal about this because I got into the habit of forcing myself through tougher scenes to get to ones I was actually excited about or had plans for. Whatever, right? I was getting words on the page and was mostly happy with the results. But, honestly, I didn't feel satisfied with my groove until NaNoWriMo. That's when I gave my inner editor a swift kick in the balls and wrote so furiously, I didn't have time to contemplate the the how and why. I thought it would be a serious train wreck--think fiery, lots of casualties, only Bruce Willis survives--but I wrote on. Turns out, less of a tragedy, more of an eye opener. Something just clicked for me. I was having 5 to 6k days on the regular (yes, I said 'on the regular', ha!) and chugging through my outline like I was connecting dots with one of those fat toddler crayons. NaNo flipped a switch I didn't know I had. I can honestly say it changed the way I write. I briefly considered never editing a thing as I moved through a WIP and just saving it all for the end, but I'm a little too anal retentive for that. Also, that daily review session helps me to get back into whatever project I'm working on, so that has to stay (inner editor: 1; me: 0). This isn't to say I'm looking to finish a novel a month from now on. That's crazy talk. But 2 novels a year? 3? That's entirely doable. Plus some short stories and all the editing that comes along with the act of writing. And being the anal retentive writer that I am, I keep track of all my daily progress on a desk calendar that I plan to keep forever.

What am I working on now, you ask? Well, a novel that mixes vampires and ghosts that has been sitting at 35k words for a few years. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but no clue as to what the story would really be about and where it needed to go. But a nice long brainstorming session, a few pages of handwritten notes, and a typed outline later, I got the direction I needed. Now I'm sitting pretty at 52,000 words with an ending about 40k words down the road. I can see it in the distance. It looks like a mirage. That's a peek into my head, ladies and gents. It's busy in there...

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