Learning to Write: 10 Things I Now Know
This year is my first attempt at NaNoWriMo and while I have written many things before I have found that even in these early stages I have learnt a lot about myself and writing. Today I am going to share these with you as well as my first thoughts about NaNo.
- Writing is hard work. This one I knew already. I have written things before, albeit not on this scale and not in such a small time scale but every time it was work. That’s not to say I have not been enjoying it. I love writing but sometimes the mental, effort used to put something onto paper (or screen) is intense. NaNo has reinforced this.
- A deadline only increases the work. This one may only apply to me because I was born with an incredible and limitless ability to be lazy, even with things that I really want to do. Adding a deadline to something on some level makes me want to put off doing it. It moves from being a hobby to work, and that is something I always want to avoid.
- Planning is invaluable. I planned my novel thoroughly before November. In real life I like to know exactly where I need to be and exactly when I need to be there. This has spilled over to NaNo. The idea of not knowing beforehand irked me, so for thirty days before the start I planned everything thoroughly. I actually did this in no time at all and went on to plan another project as well. I know some people say this kills the creative juices but for me it is essential to have peace of mind.
- It is impossible to stick to plan, no matter how much you want to. The basic outline of my structure remains mostly intact, but when you are writing new ideas fly at you in their dozens. The story changes and evolves and eventually a character you designed is unrecognisable anymore. Only a handful of days in and my story, while mostly the same, has also changed considerably.
- I have the discipline. I have already mentioned that I am chronically lazy. It is nice to have learnt that when I really apply myself to something I can do it. Hopefully I can use this in other areas of my life too.
- It is very difficult to turn my inner editor off. For smaller projects this is not so much of a problem but when attempting something larger like NaNo my inner editor is pulling it’s hair out at the idea of leaving a sentence imperfect
- Write for yourself and nobody else. Sometimes I look at my work and I think, will anyone other than me enjoy this story? And then I think who cares as long as I enjoy it? I know for many people the ultimate goal is to become published but the moment when you start writing for an agent or editor you are well into the realms of seeing it as a job rather than something you want to do. Chances are you’ll find that other people will enjoy it, and that if it is written well you will be able to create an audience, so in the mean time don’t worry about it. An editor will tell you if he thinks any major changes are required.
- This links back to the previous point. Don’t worry about not reaching your goal. Nobody is going to reprimand you if you don’t reach it and I certainly won’t think any less about you. It’s important that you enjoy what you do, even if it means going at your own pace. Whether it takes you a month, two or more it’s your project and while NaNo is great for motivation don’t let it become an obsession. Writing is incredibly addicting, and like and addiction it can be detrimental.
- Putting your life on hold is not a good idea. Sometimes the desire to reach the set word count leaves me thinking I need to ditch my friends, leave homework unfinished (I attend an adult language school every day) and basically kill my social life. Don’t there is no point and it is not healthy. You will find you have plenty of time so reward yourself for your effort ever while and then.
- Nothing written is written badly. Ok not exactly true your first draft is going to be awful but it’s not bad in the sense that it will ultimately improve your skill. Everything you write is practice and like all forms of art it needs to be practiced for you to improve.
Overall my current experience with NaNo is a positive one. I have learnt that I am capable of doing this and I have a new found respect for Authors that publish books on a regular basis. I’ve learnt a bit about what it takes and about myself and I can only learn more.
This guest post was written by Michael D Fowler. Michael Fowler is a university graduate from Cornwall in England who is now living in Berlin. Having finished his degree he experience a sudden panic and for the time being at least, has walked away form his degree in Biomedical Science and opted for a life as an Au Pair in Berlin. You can learn more about his life as an Au Pair and a bit about his attempt at becoming a better writer at themikebehere.wordpress.com.