Contrary to popular belief, no, I’m not dead. But I’ve been writing my fat, stumpy fingers down to tiny little still-chunky nubs in the past two weeks while working on my NaNoWriMo novel. As I promised before, new posts by necessity have had to be back-burned. Hopefully you’re all still getting a daily supply of life-related nonsense – including the occasional chuckle – somewhere else in my temporary absence. Just, you know, don’t get too comfortable. November will be over as quickly as it came, and then I’ll be right back in the bloggery saddle.
Oh, and how’s the NaNo novel coming, you ask? Well, it’s sitting at 20,196 words at the moment, and I need to reach 22k by the end of today to be “on track”. So, all things, considered, it’s rolling along just fine so far. Now, let’s just all pray I somehow manage to weather Thanksgiving without a huge loss of productively.
I have to admit, If you – well, not you, but anyone, had told me in the middle of 2010 that I’d write 20,000+ plus words during the first 12 days of November 2012, I’d have laughed at you first, and publicly accused you of being some kind of evil witch for predicting the impossible. And also for floating, I guess. That’s how they knew you were a witch, right?
Anyway, the thing is that at that point back in 2010, I had barely just begun working – slowly, deliberately, doggedly – on my first novel, Famine. And, as I’ve mentioned before, that novel took me 18 months to write. That is, 18 long months of trial, error, and trying to find a, well, groove for how to go about regularly putting the words of a story down.
(I’ll just go ahead and apologize now for insinuating that I have any sort or form of groove what-so-ever. I mean, when it comes to the flinging words around like a drunk parakeet, I guess I do, but as for a dancing-type groove, I’m about a groove-free as the creepy weeping angel statues in that Dr. Who episode, Blink.)
The thing is, that thing that people who do write regularly say about “writing being kind of like a muscle”? Yeah, I figured that was BS. As it turns out, though, it’s not quite the same level of BS as your uncle Hal telling fish stories. In fact, it’s actually the opposite of a BS fish story. Believe it or not, it seems to be true.
When I first started writing Famine, I tried a number of different things to find a pattern of writing that worked for me. I’d get up at the plumber’s crack of dawn and try to sneak in 1000 words before anyone else in the house woke up, or I’d stay up late and push for a thousand or two before my brain revolted completely, threw in the towel, and slipped off into dreamland. When that happened, I’d usually snort myself awake at some point, wipe the drool away, and then groan and count the number of paragraphs I’d added to my manuscript that looked like:
But as time stretched on and I kept at it, progress came in fits and starts, eventually smoothed out into a fairly regular trickle, and then, ultimately I found myself chucking words out in a steady, mostly coherent stream.
Indeed, practice does work when it comes to writing, it seems, and that’s something everyone who every considers doing NaNo should keep in mind. Is it likely to produce a polished, shiny novel, ready for publications? Oh, for all things good and holy, no. Even if you manage to “finish” NaNoWriMo and “win”, and find yourself at the end of November with work of a 50k-ish words, it’s likely going to need some long-term exposure to the editorial sandblaster.
Even so, sitting down and writing out a novel, any way you get it done, builds your writing muscles. And NaNoWriMo, while admittedly sort of a gimmick, can be every bit as productive as going hog-wild on P90X, and trying to sculpt out a new you in 90 days. Sure, at the end of that 90 days you’ll still have some work to do, but odds are good you’ll be well on your way, with all the tools you need to keep moving forward.
And really, getting started is almost universally the hardest part of anything new.
It’s easy to keep going after that.