Every November my social media stream fills up with people talking about writing a book in a month. I usually have to take a break from The Internets during this period because I stress year round about not writing fast enough, so I don’t need extra pressure.
However, the writing has been going, and we’re almost at the halfway through November mark, and I haven’t posted anything anywhere in weeks and weeks, so here’s some free advice that I’m really good at giving and not so great at taking. (Even though the wisdom of this has been verified by third parties.)
“Every artist was first an amateur.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Something I really like about the NaNoWriMo website—the “official” source—is that the emphasis is not on getting published, or even necessarily on anyone reading the novel. It’s about telling a story. Making art. It’s about non-writerly people exploring their storytelling voice by writing at a speed that stays ahead of the internal editor that says “What are you doing? You can’t write a book! You’re not a writer!”
Incidentally, that voice doesn’t go away, no matter how many books you’ve actually written. I also like this advice because it’s along the lines of “If they can do it, so can I,” which is literally the thing that made me finally stop talking about writing (see below) and finish a cursety-curse book.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written, and if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” —Madeleine L’Engle
That voice in your head? It’s going to tell you your ideas are stupid and juvenile and cliched. Tell that voice to go suck an egg. It’s your book and you can write it the way you want to. NaNoWriMo’s founder, Chris Batty’s book No Plot, No Problem helped me finish my first book (Not during NaNoWriMo, but whatever) because of this advice:
- Write a list of things you love in books, no matter how cliched or silly your inner editor thinks they are.
- Write a book with those things in it.
The first draft of your book is for you. The next draft(s) are for an editor. Then one way down the line is for the reader. (That’s not a quote; that’s me. Or it’s me quoting me.)
“You fail only if you stop writing.” —Ray Bradbury
Something I don’t like so much about the NaNoWriMo gestalt that takes over my Tweetstream is the idea of “winning.” It’s great if NaNoWriMo inspires you to put your thoughts and ideas into 50,000 words. But if you finish a book, you win, no matter how long it takes you.
“The first draft of anything is shit.” —Earnest Hemingway
I need to tattoo this on the backs of my eyelids.
“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterward.” —Robert A. Heinlein
I meet a lot of people who enjoy talking about writing a lot more than they enjoy putting their butt in the chair and their fingers on the keyboard. So shut up and write.
Also, I read an article by Patricia Cornwall ages ago that said if she talks too much about her plots, she loses the impetus to write them, because she’s already told the story. So there’s that.
“For God’s sake, leave it alone and fix it in the rewrite, you moron.” —Rosemary Clement-Moore
I’ve made myself some desktop/iPad wallpapers to remind myself of these words of wisdom, and I figured you might like them, too. If you click on the images, they will take you to the full sized .jpg. Images are from Pixabay used with a CC 0 license. Later you’ll find them in the “For writers: Handouts and Fun Stuff” tab.
Enjoy, and happy writing (or reading)!
Just for the over 21s: