By now, you probably know that National Novel Writing Month has begun. You might also know that the objective is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. What you might not know is that NaNo is a great antidote to bad critiques.
Back in the dark ages, (well, okay, 2009), I stumbled on NaNoWrimo. But that wasn’t the beginning, not by a long shot. In the early Pleistocene, I wanted to be a writer (yes, kids, people wrote back then, and not just on stone tablets, so hush or we’ll never get through this). I wrote my first story when I was nine, about a cat named Marge. As an adult, I decided I’d probably better take some classes because, after all, there’s more to the world than cats named Marge (although if I’d’ve been able to predict the popularity of cats on the internet, this would be a very different post). I signed up for a fiction writing class.
It was fabulous. My teacher was very supportive, kind, and helpful. Elated, I signed up for a novel writing class. It wasn’t the same instructor, and I asked my prior teacher if she’d consider teaching it, but she had other projects on her plate. So I went off to my new novel class, excited and very, very naive.
Not all instructors are the same, as anyone who’s gone through high school knows. Unfortunately, when dealing with – well, I was going to say, when dealing with the arts, but I see that it really applies to learning anything which we want to know – when dealing with learning something new, we must be vulnerable enough to know our own ignorance and admit it. This requires the teacher to be experienced enough to know how to treat the student, and the student’s vulnerability, with respect and gentleness. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works and you can probably guess what happened.
The so-called “critiques” were so awful that, despite paying over $500 of my hard-earned money (and for me, that’s a LOT of hard-earned money), I didn’t complete the last module. To this day, that novel still isn’t finished. Thanks to my wonderful coauthor and a helpful mentor, I’ve been able to poke around with it and it might, eventually, see the light of day.
Which brings me to NaNo. For some unknown reason, I like to do ALL the things, usually at once. This sometimes means I bite off more than I can chew, and sometimes means that I have very late nights while I fit stuff in. I’ve gotten much better at NOT putting ALL the things into my planner, but my first NaNo was in 2009 – a month before I finished my masters degree AND while I worked full time. I decided to write Conservator, the novel from my ill-fated novel class, as my NaNo project because, after all, it couldn’t be any worse than it already was, right? So I set out on an odyssey that changed my life.
What NaNo taught me is what marathoners know: all it takes to finish a novel is to write the damned thing. There’s no magic to it. Hemingway apparently said, and this may be apocryphal but it sounds like something he’d say, “Writing is the art of applying ass to chair.” Halfway through I got stuck and couldn’t see the end. I don’t outline, so I didn’t have the benefit that outliners have of knowing where the story was going. I mean, I knew my hero vanquishes the bad guys. I knew which main character dies in the end scene and why. But here’s what NaNo taught me – it taught me the pressure of making word count can push me right onto the page, past the inner critic.
Sometimes I had nail marks on my arms, metaphorically speaking, from the critic trying to hold onto me and keep me back. But I was bound and determined to get that 50,000 by any means necessary. I wrote interviews with my character. I wrote a prologue from my main character’s brother’s point of view, instead of his. I wrote eight chapters of back story and, in the process, fell in love with three characters I’d originally planned to kill off in the beginning – off screen, to boot!
For me, being a novelist is about having the courage to get the story out, regardless of how rough the draft is at first. Editing is a lot easier than writing from scratch, and you can fix anything in the draft once you have a draft. It’s also a helluva lot easier to sell a book that you wrote than one you haven’t written yet. Since my ultimate goal was to become a published author, then it worked out.
Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Many voracious readers are, or could be someday, writers.
So I ask you, Dear Reader:
What book might you write someday?
What would you entitle it?
If you tell me in the comments, I’ll select a random commenter to win a copy of SEALED BY FIRE or your choice of something from the Noon and Wilder backlist.
All commenters will be entered to win a grand prize of $25 USD from All Romance eBooks!
Are you ready to get to work?
The Nice Girls Writing Naughty Event is right now, November 12th through the 26th.
Leave a comment to win prizes from the Nice Girls, as well as a grand prize of $25 USD from All Romance eBooks!
Prizes each day are offered by our individual authors, and include:
RUMOR HAS IT, by Leela Lou Dahlin
$10 Gift Card for Amazon from Ella Sheridan
SEALED BY FIRE, by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
E-copy of either NO PRINCE CHARMING or NO MORE MASQUERADE,by Angel Payne
KITTY and a $5 Amazon Gift Card, by Harlowe Wilde
Selection from back-list, Tina Christopher
A $10 Amazon Gift Card, from Lara Archer
A $10 All Romance eBook Gift Card, from Taige Crenshaw
A prize from Dakota Trace.
Join us and enter a comment in each day’s post to be entered into the drawing for that day, as well as for the grand prize.
Thanks for reading!
– E.E. Cummings
**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook