Lately it seems like I know a lot of people who have published a book. (OK, maybe it’s only several. Well, maybe only a few.) Most of their titles are non-fiction — and I’m not going to list them here — so it’s not really that they are more creative than me (than I) but that they are more productive. The point is that I’m feeling like there is a bandwagon that I should be riding, or that there is something I could accomplish if I wanted to.
I’ve tried my hand at NaNoWriMo for three years now, and each year I have failed to reach the intended goal of 50,000 words. The word count itself is not such a big deal to me, but the fact that my stories have barely reached the end of Act One has been a revelation to me. It seems that I enjoy writing descriptive scenes more than stringing them together along a plotline, and I let dialog substitute for action.
I was amazed at some of the characters which sprang from my imagination, seemingly of their own volition. They had their own voices and personalities, although many of them could be traced back to aspects of my own life, both present and past. That’s fine, that’s what writers are supposed to do, write what they know and from a personal frame of reference. The hard part was taking them to new places, putting them in situations which I had never experienced myself.
When I had a scene in mind, the words flowed easily, but at the end of the scene I faced a brick wall of indecision of where to take it next. Then came the temptation to revise on-the-fly, the “inner editor” as it is known in the NaNoWriMo community. Writing in a word processor program meant that my words were costing me nothing to delete and replace. It also meant that the words looked more published and thus required more thought as to how they were formatted. My output slowed to a crawl as I scrolled back and reread what I had written and rearranged sentences. One remedy for this was to take pen to paper, go old-school. I took a notebook to a coffee shop and hand-wrote page after page. After about an hour my hand would cramp up, but it was a more productive hour than if I had sat at home hovering over the “Word Count” button. When I later transcribed the writing into a computer document, I found myself adding even more words, filling in details and filling out the shorthand. It was a good system.
Now I’m back at the computer. We’ll see how it goes.