Posts Tagged ‘expectations’

Entering the Fray

Well, it’s begun.  I took my lunch today to crank out my ‘quota’ for the day, and already I’m tired.  I did it, though, finishing up just in time with just over 1,700 words. I’ve met my main character. He’s a bit grittier than I suspected, and his sense of morality is somewhat questionable, but I think he and I are going to get along just fine.

The first few paragraphs, I’ll confess, felt more than a little daunting.  My internal editor wasn’t quite finished packing, and tried to make a few ‘helpful suggestions’ as I typed, but I gave him the boot, and after several minutes, my fingers and my imagination picked up a steady rhythm.  I remembered, as I trudged along, that I actually like writing, and each sentence became an adventure, and a new obstacle to conquer.

I suppose what I’ve written so far makes up about half a chapter or so, and I’ve already started identifying key issues with my writing.  I’m choosing, though, to ignore those issues and just keep plodding along.  This month, my goal is productivity.  We can worry about quality later, once the whole store is actually out there.  I’ll have plenty of time for editing, later, and to tell the truth, I’m looking forward to it.  But it’s not time now.

I’m not even finished for the day, I don’t think.  My goal is to pump out another session of 1,667 today, maybe even two if I can find the focus and the energy.  I honestly believe that getting a good healthy start is the key to pushing through those long dry stretches later in the month where I start to hate my novel and my characters and the fact that I ever thought it was a good idea to do this.

Let’s be fair, too. This is only the first day.  I’m already feeling excited about the prospect of reaching word 50,000 and beyond, but I have to reach each goal before then, first.  My first goal is accomplished, and I’m feeling the energy to keep going.  I’ve never felt so excited about a novel before, so I think this is a good thing.  I hope your novels are going well, also, and for those of you not writing, I hope that you’re enjoying this blogging experience so far.

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Clearing the Slate

Tabula Rasa.

Literally, it means ‘blank tablet.’  There are any number of cliches I could throw around to get the same point across, but for your sake and mine, I won’t.  The exciting thing about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is the opportunity to start completely fresh with a brand new story.  It’s not necessary to revisit old work.  In fact, it’s discouraged. There are no real expectations other than sheer output.

Okay, there might be some expectations, like basically sound sentence structure and probably a modest grasp of English vocabulary. But, aside from that, all that matters is that 50,000 words are penned over the next month.  It may sound daunting, but also, it’s very freeing.  I get to write about whatever I want for thirty straight days.  Now, I have a ‘plan’ in place already for that novel, but I don’t have any deadlines, expectations, or goals, except for finishing.  It’s all about getting it done.

With that in mind, there are a few things to take care of first:

Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, has said that the biggest reason most aspiring novelists never progress past, well, aspiration, is that a grumpy old man (or woman) has taken up residence inside their brains.  His name is Ed(itor), and it is his life’s work to ensure you are never happy with whatever sentence you have just written.  He derives no greater satisfaction than to wile away the hours, pondering whether that one word is just… perfect.

Well, Ed is taking a vacation this month.  It doesn’t matter where, though I imagine he will find something wrong with any place he ends up.  I, on the other hand, will be perfectly free over the next thirty days to write whatever I want, without Ed’s constant feedback, derision, and overall dissatisfaction with the quality of my work.  Now, Ed will be back December 1st, but I’ll be ready for him with a nominally completed manuscript for him to mull over and critique and ultimately, shred to pieces.  For the next month, though, he and I will not be on speaking terms, not even a short phone call,  text message or IM.

With Ed safely out of the way, we run into public enemy number two: Procrastination.

It applies to homework, working out at the gym, mowing the lawn, and yes, writing a novel.  ‘I can work on it later’ is the oft-heard mantra of the unpublished writer.  It’s hard enough to publish a finished work, why complicate things by never letting yourself get that far?  Unlike your inner editor, though, procrastination has friends.  They are responsibility, fun, and Facebook.

The key to defeating procrastination has two parts: time management and motivation.  Time management is usually the harder of the two.  For many in my particular age cohort (fancy demography term alert), our lives outside of work are not particularly regimented.  We go out when we want to, watch television when we want to, and when we don’t want to, we don’t do it.  Unfortunately, we tend to fill up the empty spaces with… nothing. And, yes, folks, Facebook is nothing.  (I love Facebook, but I recognize the dangers that it poses as a temporal black hole, sucking away your life and your time in huge chunks.)

So, the first step is to make time for writing.  Set aside a certain amount of time each day, preferably at the same time if you can.   Second, when you’re bored, instead of facebook, try working on your novel, even if it’s only for ten minutes.  See how much you can do, challenge yourself. It’s amazing what the results might be.  Also, remember to pay your rent, feed your dogs, and pay attention to your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/neighbor’s cat who spends way too much time in your backyard.  Prioritize, and make writing your novel something near the top of your list.

Finally, find a way to motivate yourself, or get other people to do it for you if you’re not particularly adept in that area.  Some easy suggestions are to do fun things with your writing, like Word Sprints: giving yourself five minutes to write as much as possible, then doing it again to try to beat your previous records.  Post a chart of your current word count somewhere where other people can see it.  Tell people you’re writing a novel in 30 days, then allow them to ridicule you if you don’t follow through (fear of shame is a pretty strong motivator!)  Seriously, though, tell people what you’re doing, and keep them updated throughout.

If you’re still finding it difficult, nanowrimo.org, has ways now for you to raise money for student writing programs, just by writing your novel and asking for sponsors. It’s fantastic!

The most important thing, though, is to just sit down and write. Do it now, and don’t wait until tomorrow.  Give your editor a month off without pay, and finish a novel without fear.

I’m doing it, and I can’t wait to see what happens.