I don’t write quickly, as some of the authors I know do. Some write well in the first draft and can turn out a good book every six months but not me. It takes me several drafts to get a manuscript to a publishable form. I have a mind like a grasshopper in the sun, hopping around in the first draft of a manuscript with each new thought that occurs to me. While the initial outline I made for the novel is linear and details the important points of a complete story arc, the way I put the story on paper is not.
During the initial writing process, I have a friend who is a structural editor who points out plot holes and places where a story arc has flatlined. He sees the larger picture. The final draft goes to my editor, who line-edits and gets into the smaller issues of usage and style.
For me, taking a novel from concept to publication takes about four years. This is because after I finish writing each scene, I have to decide how I want to proceed with what I know must happen the next.
So, I work on something else until I get that flash of inspiration that kickstarts my brain again. The plots and characters of all my works in progress are lurking in the back of my mind at all times, which is why I always have several manuscripts in various stages of the process.
The manuscript that is currently closest to completion is in third draft form and just came back from my beta readers. I have some large changes to make, but thanks to their input this will go much more quickly than the previous drafts. I still expect to publish it next summer.
I am still working on the first draft of a new duology (2 novels) set in the world of Neveyah, a prequel to Tower of Bones. That manuscript is at the ¾ mark for the first novel and the first draft of book 1 will possibly be completed by Christmas.
I also have a contemporary fiction novel in the works that has been pushed back, but whenever I have a flash of inspiration, I do pull it out and get a bit more done on it.
But September, October, and November are what I think of as Short Story Season.
The calendar is full of conventions and NaNoWriMo events. My ability to focus on a long project becomes fractured, so I use this time to write as many short stories as I can so that I have a backlog of work to submit to magazines and anthologies.
And on the short story front, I’ve received minor edit requests on work I submitted to two anthologies, which I will have resolved today.
By using the Submittable App, I have found three more anthologies that have interesting themes that I would like to write stories to. The final dates for submissions are still six months out on these so I may have something worth sending by then.
This will be my eighth year of participating in NaNoWriMo, and my seventh as a municipal liaison. That month of merry madness forces me to become disciplined, to lose the bad habits I slip into during the rest of the year. It forces me to ignore the inner editor, that unpleasant little voice that slows my productivity down and squashes my creativity.
Also, for this one month of the year, nothing comes before writing. Some years flu season has gotten in the way, and I was in bed for part of the time. Nevertheless, I was still writing and getting my wordcount when I was awake. Thank God for NyQuil.
My rules for NaNoWriMo:
- Write at least 1,670 words every day (three more than is required) This takes me about 2 hours – I’m not fast at this.
- Write every day, no matter if you have an idea worth writing about or not. Do it even if you have to get up at 4:00 am to find the time and don’t let anything derail you.
- If you are stuck, write about how your day went and how you are feeling about things that are happening in your life, or write that grocery list. Use this time as a brainstorming session and just write about what you would like to see happen in your story. Change the color of the font so you can easily cut your ruminations out later.
- Check in on the national threads at http://www.NaNoWriMo.org and your regional thread to keep in contact with other writers.
- Attend a write-in if your region is having any, or join a virtual write-in at NaNoWriMo on Facebook. This will keep you enthused about your project.
- Delete nothing. Passages you want to delete later can be highlighted, and the font turned to red or blue, so you can easily separate them out later.
- Remember, not every story is a novel. If your story comes to an end and you are only at 7,000 words, start a new story in the same manuscript. Use a different font or a different color of font, and you can always separate the stories later. That way you won’t lose your word count.
- Validate your word count every day.
As writers, we tend to forget that output is important too. NaNoWriMo reminds us that if we don’t write a paragraph or two of new material every day we stagnate. How unexciting it is to be stuck, going over and over the same stale passages, wondering why the book isn’t finished.
The act of sitting down and just writing whatever comes into your mind is liberating. Even if you don’t want the world to see what you write during the 30 days of NaNoWriMo, you have an outlet for your creative mind, a sounding board for your opinions and ideas.
Watching TV and playing video games all evening long doesn’t allow for creative thinking. Your mind doesn’t get to rest from the daily grind. Creative thinking—assembling puzzles, quilting, writing, painting, building Lego cities—these activities are far more relaxing than vegetating in front of the TV. Assembling puzzles is a great way to sort out plot points.
If you have an obsession for a TV show that is interfering with your ability to find time to write, maybe this isn’t your time to be a writer.
My thought is that those shows will be available forever on Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime and your favorite video games will be available too.
Something I have found over the years is that by getting away from the TV for a while, your mind becomes sharper. By doing something different, you give your active mind a vacation. You rest better and your whole body benefits from having done something positive and restful with your free time.
Credits and Attributions
Underwood Standard Typewriter, PD|75 yrs image first published in the 1st (1876–1899), 2nd (1904–1926) or 3rd (1923–1937) edition of Nordisk familjebok.
IBM Selectric, By Oliver Kurmis [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), from Wikimedia Commons