On Writing

We decided to participate in NaNoWriMo some time in September, about a month and a half before the November 1 start date. This would be the time to start plotting and planning, but of course that is not what I did initially. I went back to some of my stalling techniques.

Some years ago, I bought Stephen King’s book On Writing but never read it. It was one more book sitting on the shelf, quietly mocking me. With a deadline approaching, I finally pulled it down to see what this best-selling author had to say. It turned out to be a wonderful book on the craft of writing, and it inspired me to relax a bit about the upcoming month of writing.

Can you inspire to relax, or is that an oxymoron?

My inclination is to over-plan certain things, imagining pitfalls and solutions ahead of time. Planning to write every day for a month, without a place to begin much less an outline of the story, had me questioning if this attempt would fail before I even began. On Writing gave me a plan that wasn’t a plan.

After some memoir material about how he became a writer, the book described the advantages and pitfalls of how he went about writing his novels. One thing he mentioned was that he often started a novel with little more than an initial scene with one or two characters, and maybe a conflict. Unable to imagine planning or writing 50,000 words, I latched on to this technique and worried a little less about how unprepared I was.

But only a little.

Set me a task! Give me a deadline!

Like so many aspiring authors (to carry on a theme), I had visions galore of what it would be like. I subscribed to Writers Digest, I bought books on writing, had several notebooks filled with journal material – but I still didn’t start any real writing projects. I searched in vain for that perfect tool, that perfect pen, that perfect time of day that would make my perfect writing atmosphere complete. But I was just stalling.

I am very deadline focused as many sleepless nights of cramming for finals will attest to. Give me a week, I will start six days later (maybe six and a half). With no one shouting for a paper to be written, it remained unwritten. NaNoWriMo would give me a deadline that I so desperately needed, and I had a friend that would participate as well. We see each other four or five times a week, and we would keep each other on task.

Maybe this time it would actually happen.

A first draft in just over a month?

Like so many others, I always thought I had a book inside me that needed to be written. Oddly enough, this first novel is not that book. At the urging of a friend, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal was 50,000 words in 30 days.

I had always thought about “my” book as a work of non-fiction rather than a novel, but the stated goal of NaNoWriMo is a work of fiction. I considered bending the rules briefly, but then thought that attempting fiction first would bring more life and story telling to an eventual work of non-fiction.

Now all I needed was a story…

New site

I have created this blog to describe the journey of writing, revising, editing, and completing my first novels. I am indebted to NaNoWriMo for the structure (and panic) of a deadline, and Stephen King’s On Writing for the freedom to trust in the discovery method of writing.