Thursday, November 21, 2013

Alex on Maintaining Momentum

NaNoWriMo is a really great thing, for so many reasons. One of my favorite great things about it is that you have no excuses. Does it matter that, until the day of Thanksgiving, I'm working every single day this month? Should I put aside my novel in the interest of planning my wedding, finishing a craft swap, or cleaning the apartment? Do I stop writing simply because my shoulder is injured and sitting at the computer for too long hurts? HELL NO. This is NaNoWriMo, so you keep writing, because there are thousands of other people also writing, and you're all in this together.

There are lots of resources to give you advice on how to keep writing and reach your word count for NaNoWriMo. Forums, websites, blogs, pep talk messages from the Office of Letters and Light themselves... But how do I do it? I have two things I always keep in mind while writing.

ONE: Stephen King said in On Writing, "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or despair ... Come to it any way but lightly." Basically, you have to feel something before you can write something. Given that I like to write things where people are confused, scared, or dying, it can be really hard to find a time and place where I am comfortable feeling that way so that I can write that way. But I do it anyway, because it's what drives the story. If I feel like my character, then I can write my character. If I feel like I'm in the plot, I can write the plot.

And TWO: Neil Gaiman's advice to writers starts like this: "How do you do it? You do it. You write. You finish what you write." It's simple advice, but it's the only universal writing advice there is. If you want to write... you just write. He elaborates on the advice here, and I remember him talking about this advice when I saw him speak in Tuscaloosa, AL. He said then, also, that even if what you're writing is crap, at least you got the crap out of your head and onto the page. Now you can move that crap aside and write the next thing in your head, which might also be crap, or it might be brilliant. Just write. And keep writing. And that's what I tell myself, especially during NaNoWriMo. If, on November 30, I read what I've written for the past month, and decide it was just awful, I can at least tell myself that this idea, these characters, these settings and this dialogue are all out now. I've written them, they didn't work out, and I can move on to my next idea. But there's always the chance that, on November 30, I'll read what I've written for the past month, and think, "Hey, this isn't bad." Then I'll edit, and polish, and clean, and then I'll have something I like and want to share with others.

So the brief answer to "how do you keep writing?" for me is "I just do, and with feeling."

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