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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gettin' Insightful...

I write because I must.

I write because I have something to say.

I write to release the music in my soul.

I write because I’m sure it’s an easy way to make money.

I write because I have a book inside of me somewhere.

We’ve all heard these comments at some point, and perhaps they are truths to some, myths to others. (Especially the part about the money!) With the start of NaNo, there are people all over the world setting their writing goals and starting their journey. We’re beginning day 3, and already you see writers at 12K per day, and others who haven’t yet begun. The complaints are beginning as well, as are the comments that indicate that many writers are discourage and ready to drop already.

I signed up for NaNo this year simply because I’ve never done it. This past summer, I participated in 2 week Fast Draft challenges with a small group of authors, and felt that experience prepared me for NaNo. And in a way, it has.

In order for me to complete the 50K word count, I calculated the words per day that I need to write. I gave myself several days off, (after all, November is a busy month!) and that still came to less than 2K per day. Easy, right? Well, maybe not, considering that my grand total word count for October was about 7K! LOL! But that was intentional; I built a break into my schedule this year. There were some edits, and some serious plotting going on, and I did some uncounted words on several WIPs, but my focus was on taking some time to refresh my mind. NaNo seemed like a good way to get back into the habit of writing, and also to narrow my focus to one project.

Why do I write? All of the above comments have applied to me at some time, but the main reason I write is that my brain has some chemical issues. I’m a bit clumsy with communication; it’s difficult for me to verbally express what I wish to say to someone. I am capable of expressing myself in writing.

I have racing thoughts, and those of you who have experienced this know how distressing it can be. From childhood, stories and scenarios have flooded my brain non-stop. Many writers say they are full of stories, but this is a bit different. It’s an obsessive/compulsive issue that is nearly crippling. When the racing thoughts kick in, I babble non-stop, and sleep is nearly impossible. It slowed me down at school and sometimes interferes with my job.

When I purchased my first laptop and began writing compulsively for hours on end, it wasn’t for creative expression. It was for survival…for sanity. That first year, I probably wrote 400K or more. Of that, two novels and a novella emerged and made it to publication.

Thankfully, the discipline that it takes to write constructively was drilled into me in college, so after the first few months of simply pouring myself out onto my hard drive, I was able to slow down, to take the time to polish my words and sentences, and to consider actually selling what I’d written. Because even if my stories don’t sell, they’re going to be written.

The wonderful thing is that I’ve discovered that this outlet I have has the potential to be fun. Note that I said that it has the potential…it also have the potential to be nightmarish and stressful. Anyone who’s written on a deadline or found themselves blocked will discover that this craft is not always fun, nor is it easy.

Like all things in life, there must be balance and moderation. So yes, there are spikes in my creativity where I can write a 30K novella in days. Other times it takes months to grind out a short story. But over all, slow and steady is what it takes. Setting a daily goal. For some, it is a word count goal. As a general rule, I don’t keep track of my daily word count unless I’m on a challenge. My rule is to never let a day go by without doing something constructive, whether it’s writing, plotting, doing a book video, or seeking inspiration. (AKA research)

So if you’re doing NaNo…good for you! Just realize that if you don’t meet word count at the end of the month, you have not failed. Look at what you have done and realize that those are words that you wouldn’t have written otherwise.

If you do meet the 50K goal, excellent! Now is the hard part. Don’t leave that manuscript languishing on your hard drive. You’ve given it life, now start polishing and editing. Look at the market and see where your book fits. Expand on it, tighten it, and make those words into a living, breathing document.

It might be the only book you have in you, but I’m willing to bet that if you’ve written that much, there is more inside.

I’d like to hear why you write, and if you’re participating in the Challenge, what your feelings are about it.


Lena Austin said...

I think you said it well. "It has to be written." The characters and situations crowding my brain have found an outlet via my fingers, and now writing has become my tranquilizer of choice. It soothes me and I find solace in those quiet hours, with classical music playing on my stereo and my nails clicking on the keyboard in time to the beat of a lover's heart. Yeah. It's like that.

Paris said...

I've learned not to make myself crazy if I don't make my word count but I do strive to do at least 1500 words per day. It keeps my mind on track and the story "present". I can't imagine not writing. That's what would drive me crazy!

Maigan "Silverstein" Rarick said...

I write because I feel that if I don't, I cannot exist. I just recently got off a four month period where I did no writing, and my best friend pointed out to me that I was significantly less happy by month four than I was at month one. Writing is like a medication for my depression. Ever since I was nine, I've felt like I NEEDED to create worlds and stories. I would spend years building one world, because that is the kind of thing that makes me happy. If I couldn't write, I know I would fall downhill from there, growing more depressed and losing my will to go on. Hell, I already saw a glimpse of that in those four months.

This is my second year doing NaNo. I won last year (and went on to make my NaNo novel 120,000 words long) but I'm honestly worried about completing it this year. I'm just going to take it day by day and not look at the big picture.