Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The Writing Process
During a terrific writing workshop I attended in 1994, author Larry Woiwode said two things that have remained with me to this day:
"Writing is a confession of sin."
"Write every day."
Well, I have been bad about that second item. I have not written every day, even though writing is important to me. This is the reason I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month. I wanted to jump-start a daily writing habit, come hell or high water.
The good news is I have, in fact, been writing every day.
The bad news is I'm over a thousand words behind. I'm supposed to be at 16,667 words by the end of the day. I'm at 14,855 for a piece whose subject matter (and please don't ask me what it is) would be of no interest to anyone other than myself (and, maybe, my loving husband and children).
Here's what I've learned so far:
1. I love writing. Even when it's going badly (and it almost always is, for me, with this project). Writing is wonderful and awful and incredible and worthwhile.
2. Unlike the girl in the delightful cartoon above by Debbie Ohi, I can't write around other people. This is a considerable handycap when one is a wife and mother. I have to be alone, uninterrupted, without music or noise or coffee or any other sensory distractions.
3. Even if I try to sneak away and hide, my family knows how to find me, and find me they will.
4. My commitment to never saying to my kids, "Not now, I'm writing" is still more important to me than my commitment to the writing itself. I have won many supportive "Good luck, Mommy" kisses just by including them in the loop.
5. The author pep talks on the NaNoWriMo website can be really helpful. My favorite so far has been this one by Neil Gaiman.
6. Word counts can indeed be stretched. Character descriptions, interviews, and conversations are great for that, as are setting descriptions, dream sequences, poetry written by characters, famous passages quoted by characters, radio announcements, newspaper articles, thought soliloquies, childhood memories, and my personal favorite, descriptions of the foods being eaten by the characters.
7. Sometimes the act of writing itself reveals things about the characters or story that days of planning would never uncover. Another reason just sitting down and pumping out words, even mediocre ones, is worthwhile.
8. Writing down each scene as it enters my head, no matter how "random" or how out of order, makes the writing flow better than trying to write billiard style (trying to call "ball in corner pocket" for a ball that just won't go there).
9. Epistolary sections seem to flow more easily than straight prose...which is perhaps a cop-out...
10. I can't decided if the pain and challenge of a tighter structure like the short story are better or worse than the prolonged, spread-out, mentally preoccupying chronic illness of a novel (I am definitely brooding a lot more, about a world that doesn't even exist!). But it's a good kind of pain, either way.
I may not make it all the way to the 50,000 word finish line. But it has already, after only a week, been a tremendously worthwhile exercise.