Friday, November 20, 2009

Article | NaNoWriMo Day 20 - The Four Misconceptions of Writing debunked

NaNoWriMo Day 20

The Four Misconceptions of Writing debunked

I used to believe in the muse.  I used to think I could only write while I was inspired.  Waiting for that muse didn’t net me much, I tell you.  I used to edit as I went.  Feeling defeated at the lack of progress.  I wanted it to all be perfect.  To have the right recipe; the right amount of description to dialogue to information.  I would always put writing on my list of things to do, and it was always the item that got pushed to the end, for later after I had done everything else. I thought that then I would have luxurious amounts of uninterrupted writing time at the end of the day were me and my creative muse could bond till the wee hours of the morning.  Laugh.  Because throughout NaNoWriMo I have learned some staggering truths about my preconceptions of writing. 

The muse
She needs to be caught, roped in tied down and tortured till she screams.  She won’t perform any other way.  She might, but it will be at her whim and not yours, and lets face it we don’t have that kind of time or patience. Think about your story as much as possible.  Have it in your mind all the time.  When you’re driving, eating, doing the dishes, having a shower, let it percolate and be with you.  Your story is your new best friend, and just because you are done committing words to paper for the night, doesn’t mean you turn it off when you stop writing.  When you aren’t writing and staring at a screen or a blank piece of paper that is when the ideas will flow.  Let them simmer and turn over.  Always be open to them. 

Editing as you go is great in theory and may work for some people, or for some stories.  But as a beginning writer, I find it sets up an immovable wall around chapter three that I can’t seam to scale no matter what.  The only thing I allow now is to spell check.  I hate having to guess what that discombobulated lump of letters is supposed to mean.  So after I write a scene and it’s still fresh I will spell check only.  No other plucking at it.  If I have an idea of something I want to change about it, I make a note of it, but I won’t go in and start hampering yet.  Because as the story progresses I might find that there is more I need to add or change at the beginning.  I like to have a fluid story that is changeable pending on how my characters react.  I make notes to go back for editing later.  Add this to foreshadow hear, and what not.  You can even add these at the end of the scene and highlight them and use them as part of your word count if you must.  But don’t go back in and start changing things just yet.  Wait.  You may find it was perfect just as it is, or you may unintentionally end up deleting the most brilliant piece of dialogue but can’t see it just yet because you are too close to the project.  Distancing yourself from your work allows you to both respect it more and look at it with a more critical eye.  You can only achieve that distance with time, so let the perceived mistakes stay for a time being. 

Scene Balance
That perfect balance of dialogue to description and information.  It may be out their, but don’t try and achieve that in your first draft.  Get the story out.  Focus on the story and let it tell itself.  You may find you have characters that are information dumpers or that as the narrator you are info dumping all the time.  Let it happen, you can fix it later.  See above about editing.  Right now you need that information to allow your story to progress.  You can fix it so it isn’t as jarring later.  The story I am writing right now is heavy in the dialogue department. However my pre-NaNo novel attempt, I couldn’t master dialogue for the life of me (but that was also because I was riddled with a lack of muse, and an overambitious editor).  Some of you may do very well with the scene description others with the dialogue.  Whatever gets the story to the page. Clean up later, just let the story do its part now.  Remember novels are written in drafts, not first attempts. 

Time was my last hurtle and biggest to overcome. Writing was the reward at the end of the day.  Consequently I was also able to excuse myself from it.  I would justify that having accomplished everything else, and it being so late, I could push it off for another time, anyways I didn’t feel the muse. In real life we put the fun things to the side in lieu of responsibility.   Make writing a responsibility instead.  Make it a chore on the top of your to do list.  Even if you can only set aside 15 minutes at a time, take those fifteen minutes to hash out that scene you have been thinking about all day.  You will be surprised at how much you can get done in 15 minutes. 

NaNoWriMo has taught me a lot about writing.  I have really learned to harness the first draft and forgive its imperfections.  It is about getting the story out, not creating a masterpiece.  The masterpiece comes later.  Allow yourself the freedom to explore your world unharnessed in your first draft.  You may not use every scene you write, but every scene you write is information you need to progress the story.  You’ll find other ways of integrating that information later, or it just might become information only for you.  But for the first draft, let it all come pooring forth and don’t hinder yourself with perfections.