Thursday, November 16, 2006


I've been reading posts by participants in NaNoWriMo. I added a lot of people to my buddy list, and of course their word counts run the gamut of "no word count" to high 30K. Most of the blogs I've read are enthusiastic, positive progress reports, regardless of how "well" or how "bad" those people are doing. And my competitiveness (see earlier post that shows the evil side of me) has been at war with my compassion. I don't want people to look at my word count and feel bad that they are behind it, whether it's a few steps behind or miles.

I posted in a comment to MaryF the other day that my writing is now my day job. People who are squeezing NaNo in around work, family, and other responsibilities shouldn't compare themselves to people who don't have that stuff. (I'm not saying anyone does--I just know I would, if things were reversed.)

I've also been writing for publication for 13 years. This is my 14th completed novel. I've finished drafts in 3 years and in 8 weeks. But the most important thing I've learned in all that time and with all those books, is that writing is like any other exercise. The more you do it, the better you get.

It's not JUST a matter of practicing getting the words from your head to the screen (or paper). Writing faster isn't only a function of typing speed. It's also a function of craft and process. The more we write, the better we understand how our creativity works. When we do things that work for us instead of make us struggle, the flow comes faster. When we figure out story structure and characterization and goal/motivation/conflict (especially conflict), the story becomes easier to write, which means, usually, faster.

I heard Suzanne Brockmann do a workshop once where she said you have to determine what kind of writer you want to be, set goals, and then work toward those goals. She wanted to be fast. She knew that if she was fast, she'd be able to sell more books a year. If she came in early on her deadlines, editors would know she could be counted on. They'd also know that if they got into a tight spot, they could count on her to fill a hole in the schedule. So she set out to write fast, and it worked for her.

I didn't necessarily set out that way, but by the time I heard her workshop, I knew I wanted to be the same. So I worked at it, and about six years later, I succeeded. Not everyone needs to have that goal, or should. But hopefully NaNo or any other writing exercise can help each participant learn something about themselves and their process so the next time, whatever is holding them back now won't be a factor.

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