November 1’st is a mere ten days away at this point. Now sets in panic mode. The fear that 50,000 words is way more than you can manage. You don’t have a strong enough plot…you don’t have a plot at all. You have a plot and characters and dialogue but what if it is terrible?
Now is the time when I see a lot of posts going around about how “real writers” write their stuff. It is tempting, at this point for us lay people, to give in to those voices and give up. Well, I’ll never be Neil Gaiman or George R.R.Martin or Hemingway. I don’t write the way other people say I have to write so I must be terrible what’s the point?
I am here to offer you a very different kind of advice.
It’s all fine. You are fine. Whether you are the greatest outliner in the world or you’ve never done an outline in your life, you are fine. Gaiman doesn’t do outlines. Brent Weeks outlines religiously. They are both fantastic authors. Gaiman hand writes the first draft of whatever it is he is working on. Stephen King doesn’t. (At least not as far as I could find)
Writing isn’t science. Writing is art. There are, and always will be, an abundance of people willing to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you should be doing it instead,
“If you want to be an author,” they’ll say, “you have to have a writing degree.” If you want to be an author you have to read books like an author. You have to dissect language, characters, plot devices. You have to spend hours thinking about why the author wrote what they wrote rather than enjoying it.” “If you want to be an author,” they’ll yell from their soap boxes where they are decidedly NOT writing “you have to do three outlines. If your story changes you change the outline.” “If you want to be an author you have to do it my way or you won’t be any good.”
What they are really saying, however, is that THEY are an author(whether they are published or not-and usually they aren’t) and so you have to think like them. Their way is the only way, It’s an ego thing. It might make them feel good but telling other people that they don’t think like you so they can’t be what they say they are is useless and harmful.
I shutter to think about the number of amazing books none of us will ever get to read in our lives because someone who wanted to be an author was told “what’s the point. The greatest books ever written have already been written. Why bother?”
I have no problem with people who outline every single plot point in their novel. I have no problem with people who read books specifically to dissect the authors intentions. I have no problem with people who do character profiles for every character as the characters come up.
Neither do I have a problem with the writer who sits down at the computer with the first line of a novel in their head and just writes.
My last book came about that way. I had a line in my head. Next thing I knew I had 30,000 words down and counting. 30,000 words I am proud of, by the way. I know the characters that are and that will be. I know how it will end. I don’t know every detail of how it will get there. But I don’t want to. That’s the fun part.
The only requirement, if you ask me, to be a writer is simply that you sit down and write. Whatever your process is, you are good. Don’t let the naysayers bring you down. Don’t let the people who tell you 50,000 words in a month is impossible and even if you do it they won’t be good.
They don’t have to be. It’s your story. It’s your first draft. No one ever has to see your first draft. They get to see the polished perfect piece at the end.
What’s important to remember is that if you want to write, write. Screw everyone else. Your process is your own and it’s nobody else’s business.
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is telling you that if you don’t follow certain rules then you can’t be a writer remember two things:
1. As Robert Downey Jr. said:
“Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.”
2. The greatest artists that have ever been-writers, musicians, painters etc…-did not get that way by following the rules. Someone else trying to fit you into their box is just them afraid to try new things. They follow a formula that they think equals success. Some of them may end up being published. Some of them may even end up famous.
But none of them will be remembered for doing something great. Following the rules doesn’t lead to greatness. It leads to uniformity. Uniformity is boring in art.
If you are looking for inspiration over the next couple of days (or even over the month of November as you try to hit your daily word count) I suggest these:
Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech:
Neil Gaiman’s Journal: On Writing
Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers (from the Nerdist Podcast)
Brent Weeks does (when he’s not terribly busy) blogs on world building. This is one. I suggest reading them all if you are stuck in your world at all.
Brandon Sanderson’s complete Creative Writing Class from BYU. Some of it may be helpful. Some might not. I like what I’ve seen though.
Sanderson also has blog posts on his author site where he writes about laws of creating magic systems. He isn’t finished. I believe he is up to law 3. Here is the first one:
That’s probably good for now.
I’ll be in the zone (theoretically) during November. Which means one of two things: either I will be posting a whole lot more or I won’t post at all. If I can pull my head out of my notebook or ipad I will try to give you updates on my word counts and stuff I am learning during my first NaNoWriMo.
If you have your own places you get inspiration for writing, link in the comments!