Folks, I’m taking this Tuesday off to bring you instead a very special guest – Tanya Huff! Tanya is a prolific author of fantasy and science fiction, known for her Blood Books series featuring private investigator Vicky Nelson and her vampire partner, Henry Fitzroy. Most recently Tanya has released The Enchantment Emporium, a charming urban fantasy, and The Truth of Valor, fifth in her Valor Confederation series. Please give it up for Tanya Huff!
If it’s November, and I’m fairly certain it is, then it must be National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. For the last few years this creative writing project has involved thousands of people all over the globe sitting down and, in the heat of blind passion, slamming out 50,000 words in thirty days.
Because it’s absolutely not pertinent to the point, we’re just going to ignore the fact that 50,000 words is about half a novel; give or take, given genre expectations. Besides, a number of participants produce significantly more than the minimum word count. And a number produce less but, again, not pertinent to the point.
Every year, especially as the internet allows more connection between writer and readers, I get asked throughout October (and occasionally in September by the really enthusiastic), “Are you doing NaNo this year?” And every year, I say, “No.”
For a couple of reasons.
The first: Writing is my job. It’s what I do every month. Every day. For me it’d be as if I were, say, in any other profession, and for the month of November I was going to do one heck of a lot of overtime for no money just for the joy of doing that overtime. Um… no. As with everything, of course, the mileage of other people who do this for a living may vary.
The second and more important reason: I don’t write like that.
Generalizing like crazy here, I believe people write in essentially two different ways. Some people write like they’re framing a house. They get the structure up, then they close it in, then they start adding all the details that makes it more than merely a construction project. Some people write like they’re building a brick wall and every single brick has to go down exactly right or the whole damned wall falls down.
I write like a bricklayer. Extending the metaphor, while writing I’ve ripped courses of bricks down to get to the one brick I set in wrong and then rebuilt the wall from that point. Ditching the metaphor, this means my first draft is never any more than 10% off my final draft. I rewrite as I go. I research individual needed facts as I go. If my book is due on say, February 15th and I write the last word on February 10th, I’m golden because it won’t take me than three intensive days to polish and get it in shape to be sent to my editor. (and thank heavens for email because in the old snail mail days, we had to aim for two weeks minimum before our deadlines)
Because of the way I write, I simply can not produce 50,000 words in thirty days without turning my brain to tapioca. NaNo is, therefore, not for me.
If you write like I do, it’s not for you either.
But, if you’re someone who can throw out words and idea and concepts and generalize where research needs to go and have every intention of, now that those words are out there, spending the next six months to a year crafting them into something amazing, go for it. And you know what? Even if you never go back, even if you never look at those 51,743 words again and you’re pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen before you even start, so what? Go for it anyway. It’s not like you were born with a limited number of words and once you use them up you’re screwed.
Even if NaNo doesn’t make you a better writer, it might make you new friends – never enough of those – it might keep you too busy to go out with that person you know you shouldn’t go out with but you’re bored so why not – trust me, even crappy writing is better than a crappy relationship – and hey, it may make you a better reader, more understanding of the amount of work it takes to produce an engaging plot and three dimensional characters, and I’m all in favour of that.
Write on, dude!