It is almost July, which means it’s round 2 of Camp NaNoWriMo. I have been writing in NaNoWriMo events for 12 years. For 12 years, as a writer, I have written in nearly every NaNoWriMo event. For about 66% of that time I have thought about what it means to be a writer, especially as what I write gets more original and better. Remember, NaNoWriMo is only about word count. It is easy to write poorly because that is the purpose. I accepted that the finished product was crap and I paid attention when successful authors talked about how they learned to write well. Almost all the them talk about writing everyday. Not just writing, but working on your project (novel, poetry, etc) everyday.
Over the past year I have decided this is, basically, bullshit.
They tell you to take 10 minutes a day and write, distraction free. They tell you to get up early to write this way. They tell you to except no excuse for distraction.
This is all bullshit. Sorry, not sorry.
If we all accept that quality of writing is subjective (I HATE Dickens, but he is considered a good writer) then writing well the also subjective. What works for one writer is very likely to not work for another. It only generates self-doubt when we can’t even achieve 10 minutes a day, everyday, distraction free.
I think the only way to be a writer is to write. I don’t even think it’s important how often or what you write. I just think it’s important that you write.
How do I write?
I write this blog 3 times a week, but very often all the work goes on over the weekend. I find a spot at my favorite coffee shop and I write out all these entries. If I can’t write one then I come back to it periodically and add a little more when I can. This is all I am typically writing until a NaNoWriMo event comes around. Then I write intensively for a month. Yes, three times a year I put almost everything else aside and write like I may die if I stop. I take vacation in July, I give up weekend events, I ignore people, and I take the laptop with me to places I shouldn’t take it.
When the month is over I may give it an extra day or two to finish the project, but it has been a rare occurrence for me to not finish. The beauty of Camp NaNoWriMo is that I can set my own goal. In November I rarely write just one 50,000 word project. More often I am writing many things. I just write the story until it is over and then start the next one. Does this break the rules of NaNoWriMo? Does it matter? Is the whole system going to break down because I write 2 shorter stories? No.
What do I do the rest of the time? Well, after April’s event, 3 things happened. First, most of the short stories I wrote were put aside. Only one was turned over to others for editing. I didn’t even edit it until I got feedback from others. It was a short story and a small part of something bigger so I felt comfortable doing this. Typically every project is put away for about 6 months before I revisit it to do the first round of edits. A few have sat for years and most for as much as a year. I need to divorce myself from ownership over the story. It helps me see it with fresh eyes. Third, I prep the next project. Once May started, I was outlining the project for July.
This works for me and it is working well at the moment. I don’t want to just work for 10 minutes a day. My brain doesn’t work like that. I build the story in my mind and get to know my characters for a while before I start actually writing. By the time I write the first draft I am just putting the words together in print.
How do you write? What works for you?