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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Don’t edit yourself. Not yet. Get the words out first.
- When I’m writing I lose the ability to count.