5 things I know about writing…

It’s nearly November.

And November means NANOWRIMO.

For the uninitiated that is National Novel Writing Month- or something like that.

Essentially the challenge is to get 50,000 words out of your head and onto a page, or a laptop during the month of November.

I’ve done it twice.

The first time was 50,000 words full of semi autobiographical horse shite. Shite it was, but it was shite that needed to get out of my head in order to clear the way for other ideas to make their way in there.

Enter year 2. That 50,000 words is now an 85,000 word manuscript that is on its 3rd draft and well on its way to…something.

I’ve entered again this year, and will be using the month to develop a new idea. It’s the perfect discipline for a first draft.

The thing about NANOWRIMO is there’s no escape, no catch ups. There are also forums, emails of encouragement and a cast of hundreds of thousands doing it with you.

All of which makes now a great time to talk about writing.

Sarah over at That Space in Between (check out her blog if you get a chance) is doing a fortnightly “what I know about…” post. First up is “what I know about writing…”

Given that I have a coffee mug that says “everyone has the right to my opinion,” here’s my 20c worth:

  1. If you want to be a writer, you have to…wait for it…write! That’s right. It doesn’t matter what you write. It can be a daily journal, a blog, a word target for a bigger project- just write.
  2. Do it every day. Writing is a craft, and improves with practice. The Artists Way uses a daily practice of “morning pages” where you write about 3 pages of whatever is in your head each morning. It’s stream of consciousness writing, it’s a discipline, it’s almost a meditation, it’s a great way to cure writers block and a good way to start the day.
  3. Listen to your own voice. This one is important. Sure there might be authors or bloggers or commentators that you admire, but ultimately the more words you write, the more your voice will emerge. It’s unique. It doesn’t need to be right or wrong or clever or literary, but it will be authentically yours.
  4. Read. Lots. Both the genre you’re interested in writing and other genres. Reading allows you to absorb things like pacing, story structure, sentence structure and characterisation. It just does. Books about the craft of writing are great, but reading a lot is better.
  5. Watch. Movies, TV, sitcoms…whatever takes your fancy. But watch them as a writer. Imagine the script in your head. It won’t be long before you’re making wanky and pretentious comments like “I watch The West Wing because the writing is so great,” or “the writers in Rake have really nailed these characters this year,” or “the writers have been really mean to Nina this season”…. Or is that just me?
  6. Don’t edit yourself. Not yet. Get the words out first.
  7. When I’m writing I lose the ability to count.

Comments

31 comments on “5 things I know about writing…”
  1. kellysurteesastrology says:

    Great post Jo! I totally agree on the WW comment – the writing is brilliant! 🙂 Good luck with NANOWRIMO.

  2. Im also a subscriber to the school of everyone having the right to my opinion. I keep looking at NAno blah blah and worry that 50000 words is just too many for one month for one person. I like the idea about watching Nina to appreciate the writing that sits behind her, that legitimises my need to watch more tele (and for that I am eternally grateful)

    1. jo says:

      It’s a lot of words to be sure! Anything that approximates discipline for me (in absolute chaos) is a good thing…

  3. pixelrites says:

    I’ll be watching you from the sidelines. Resuming my Morning Pages this morning; thank you!

    1. jo says:

      glad to hear it!

  4. Zohra says:

    Hey Jo, you’ve made me wonder if i should try nanowrimo….
    Do i have the time to do it..50,000 words is a LOT.
    And what if i dont finish the count?

    1. jo says:

      Break is down into the number of words a day- 1666. Thats relatively achievable, especially for a 1st draft which is usually a spew of words & even more usually, words that need to come out. And what happens if you don’t finish the count? Nothing…you don’t finish the count 🙂

  5. pommepal says:

    Good post, good advice about writing. I think that is why blogging is addictive it is getting “stuff” out there, it is also visiting your blogging friends to see what they are “on about”.Will go check the blogs you recommend

  6. Oh I love ALL your tips!! I have saved them for future reference!!(ie when I get stuck!!)

  7. Love your ending! LOL. All of this is completely true. I’ve never done NaNo but you’re swaying me this year to give it a try. Nice to meet you.

    1. jo says:

      and nice to meet you too!

  8. It’s funny you say that – read.

    I’ve always found that the more I read, the more I want to write; the more I write, the more I want to read.

    When I stepped away from writing, I didn’t feel like reading. Even magazines became tiresome at times like those. I had lost my voice because of years of ghost-blogging in someone else’s voice, and it almost felt as if I would never get my voice back if I spent too much time reading others.

    And yet, I find that my voice flows stronger than ever when I read a large variety of different works.

    Perhaps it’s that it challenges me to find my voice, to use my voice?

    Thanks for starting that train of thought… I might have to ponder that for a while…

    1. jo says:

      thanks for dropping by

  9. Great advice. Number 3, listening to your own voice is such an important one. It is easy to get wound up in trying to write like your favourite author or blogger which really defeats the whole purpose of writing!
    I’m attempting NaNoWriMo this year….wish me luck!

    1. jo says:

      good luck!…and thanks for dropping by…

  10. Jayne says:

    I crashed and burned at 24K during NaNo 2010. Congratulations on making it to the finish!

    I am a huge fan of Morning Pages 🙂

    1. jo says:

      Thanks Jayne. That 24000 words obviously needed to be out.

  11. Debbish says:

    I’ve started The Artist’s Way several times but NEVER finished it!

    I really really really want to do NaNoWriMo, but seriously can’t think of a plot idea. (And I’m running out of time!)

    1. jo says:

      I’ve never finished the Artists Way either, but I picked up the morning pages & artists dates…Now, re plots- have you anything semi autobiographical that you can “fictionalise”? You find that when you get that stuff out, the other ideas flood in.

      1. Debbish says:

        I ‘could’ (kinda). My mother kept all of my letters I wrote home when I lived in Africa (I believe the first one stared with… “WTF was I thinking?!”). But I can’t remember enough of the detail of the places etc. I can’t imagine what the story arc would be.

  12. Oh how great minds think alike!! I’ve just spent hours (seriously) pouring out what I know about writing then view your post and it looks like we have very similar ideas!!! I’m not surprised either!!! So exited that you’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo !!! Me too….Can’t wait. Buddy me!

    1. jo says:

      cool! I’m glad you’re doing it too. What’s your user name- we can encourage each other…

  13. LOL…excited not exited…time to stop work I guess.

  14. JenniferMorton……like that I think

    1. jo says:

      I’m astrojo…no surprises there! I’ll see if I can work out how to do the buddy thing.

  15. Pingback: » NaNoWriMo 2012
    1. jo says:

      how freeing is it?????

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