Posts Tagged ‘hard work’

Victory March

Yesterday, I was tired.  I posted a throw-away blog entry because I felt like garbage.  I barely scratched out my minimum word count and it took me four agonizing hours to do it.  I hated writing with every fiber of my being, and I wanted nothing more than to say, “I have twelve days, and only five thousand words.  I should just take it easy the rest of the month.”  I didn’t.  But, believe me, I wanted to.  Every torturous minute yesterday reminded me that writing takes discipline.  It takes the determination to push through when it’s hard, when it’s painful, when it isn’t fun.

Yesterday, writing was not fun.  I left the day at 46,700 words.  So close, and I was certain that the same thing was going to happen today.  I was sure in fact that my novel was going to be hideously unpleasant to write for the duration of its first draft, and then at the end I would discover I had only trash and hundreds of wasted hours of my time.  Yesterday, I wanted to quit.

But that was yesterday.

I did it.  For the first time in SIX years of attempting National Novel Writing Month, I did it.  At 11:00, Mountain Daylight Time, I crossed the fifty-thousand word barrier for the first time in my life.  Even as I drudged through a whole chapter today that I found incredibly boring to write, but necessary for character development, I kept thinking about how close I was.  I could taste the victory champagne (it’s Dr Pepper, really) at the end of that final lap.  And now that I’m here, the victory is as sweet as I ever imagined it could be.

Today, I’m done writing.  But my story is not finished, and my novel is not complete.  Some people will take their fifty-thousand words this month, put them away and think, “Ah, that was great,” and not think an iota of writing again until next November.  But, I’m not done yet.  I’m only about 40% of the way through, in fact, but it’s the hard 40%.  It’s that first 10 miles of a marathon.  Ten miles.  I haven’t run ten miles in more than half a decade.

Tomorrow, I go back to work.  Tomorrow, the words may come fast or they might come slow.  There will be moments of exciting outpourings of creative energy and there will be moments of drudgery and impatience and bitterness and depression.  But I can do this.  I can finish this.  I can’t stop now.

Recharging Your Creative Batteries and Other Stories

I think I’ve said it once or twice before, but it’s worth repeating: writing a novel is hard work.  It isn’t physically demanding, of course, and non-novelists will probably never understand, but there are moments when extracting words from imagination is excruciating.  I have learned, even in a week, many things about the writing process, or more specifically my writing process.  Most of these things are probably wrong, and I will likely end up recanting most of them by the end of the month, if not by the time I finish the first draft.

None of the things that I’ve figured out this week relate to grammar or plot or characters or setting at all. In fact, they have little to do with the story itself.  What I’ve learned about is writing, and what it takes to make writing happen, and happen often enough and long enough that you wind up with results, and those results are increasing production and a story that is inevitably going… somewhere.

First, try to write something before you do anything else in the morning.  It doesn’t have to be much.  You can probably rap off a hundred words or so before your brain figures out what’s going on.  You don’t even need coffee to get that far.  The reason why this helps me is because the thing I struggle with the most with writing every day is getting started.  If I rattle off a paragraph or two before my brain is awake enough to object, then I’ve got myself started, without much effort.

This one’s going to get me in trouble.  Write in short bursts, 20-30 minutes at a time, maybe 45 minutes or an hour if you can stand it, but then stop.  Get up, get a drink of coffee, and go to the bathroom.  Check your Facebook (keep it short) , troll a few web forums, or catch the last half of The Office.  I thought, early on, that I would be able to (and needed to) set aside large blocks of time for writing. That was a failure on my part, not of time management, but of understanding creative energy.

There may be people out there who can be continuously creative for hours and hours on end.  If you are one of those people, then you have probably already published a book and you can safely ignore this message.  If you are not though, then you need to realize something: the creative side of your brain needs time to recharge after use, and if you’re not used to using it, just like any other muscle, you’re going to need a fair amount of rest in between.

I assume (I could be wrong) that as I write more and more, that those times that I can be creative will increase in length, but for now, I am successfully writing a novel in 15, 20, and 30 minute word sprints that are scattered throughout my day.

Finally, and this is the one that gets most people during NaNoWriMo or just novel writing in general. Write first. Finish writing. Then, reward yourself with other things.  Most aspiring novelists stay in the aspiring stage for the simple reason that they don’t write.  We don’t write because there are other things we use to fill that time, and at the end of the day, we’re too tired to write or think about writing.

While you’re writing a novel, though (if you’re serious about it) other activities just have to take second place (excepting maybe your job).  But, if you develop a habit if using those other activities to reward yourself for reaching writing goals, you might find, as I have, that you write more, sooner, and still end up having time to enjoy social activities, games, and other things.  You might also find that you actually enjoy writing so much you’d rather just keep doing that than the other things you had planned.

Twenty-five days left for NaNoWriMo, but remember folks, the first draft is only the beginning.