Quite a journey this has been, writing this goofy book. Starting off, I had no idea what it was about other than a few basic themes. Writing is not work, but fun. And, how to find your voice in fiction writing.
I had figured 30,000 words would be too bloated for such a title, and 10,000 too slim. Turned out a bit under 20,000. My “outline” was little more than a checklist of topics I thought appropriate. I had nineteen listed, four of them didn’t make the cut. And two chapters are left unfinished because I got halfway into them and decided they didn’t belong.
I wrote entirely out of order, except the introduction was written first and what you’re reading now came last. The writing process took me about two weeks, not counting a full week where I dithered on some fiction projects. At the end of it, I think it’s fair to say I spent between 20 and 25 hours writing. Tack a few more hours for production time (cover art, formatting, copyedits).
Why go through all that uncertainty, time, and effort? Especially for a book that nobody might read (worst case scenario) or may not appreciate or find useful. What dragged me to the chair, so I could write a chapter every day?
Nothing dragged me.
I went of my own volition.
Because I had fun writing this.
Sure, I had other reasons, too. The big reason that started this project rolling in my head was what happened in the first half of 2015. Or rather, what didn’t happen.
I had deep critical voice issues roughly from January to June. Nothing I wrote seemed all that good, or fun, or even original. I had a hard time sitting in the chair for more than ten minutes. I wrote, sure, but my production crept to a standstill. I wondered if maybe the dream was dead and I should pack up and move on to something else.
I took a hard look at everything. My attitude, my fears, my habits. I read books on writing, studied business, and discovered entertaining novels. Finally, in June, I devised a strategy to get past my critical voice and fears.
Every day for a week, I was going to write 250 words in the morning.
The next week, the goal was 400 words or die trying.
Then 500. 750 a day. 1,000. And more.
I got back into the swing of writing, and found out I had missed having the daily habit. Soon, every morning when I woke up, I started looking forward to writing. I was happy achieving my tiny daily goals. And I was accomplishing things, slow at first, and then I picked up momentum.
Now, I’m not paying much attention to the goals I set for myself over a month ago. I’m exceeding my daily word count goal, mostly because I wanted to finish Writing Is Not Work before a certain life event comes up around the corner. An event that I foresaw, and planned for. And I hit my deadline, though just barely.
I’m having fun, even when this silly project didn’t seem to have an end in sight and I was stumbling around in the darkness. Writing this book helped clarify in my head what I was going through. And wow, did I learn much in this process. Stuff about myself, about my methods, my philosophies, and how to be a better writer.
But I have another reason for writing this book. Last November, I had some serious disillusionment with NaNo. The way people talk both on the forums and at write-ins. The advice that gets passed around. The methods people employ to finish 50,000 words in 30 days.
None of that truly represented me as a writer and artist. I march to my own drum, with methods that work for me and might not be suitable for the vast majority of writers.
Where was my clan?
I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with and being mentored by good people who use the tools I’ve outlined here. But none of those folks I met through NaNo. Not many young writers understand Heinlein’s business rules on a deep level (whether you follow them or not is irrelevant… you can still understand them). Not many wrimos, I’m afraid, understand what it means to craft a story with your unique voice.
So I wrote this book for all you weirdos and hellraisers, who don’t entirely climb into the box and follow “da rulez”. Writing Is Not Work won’t help everyone, but I hope it helps out those who need to see a different perspective than what’s commonly offered every November.
Writing was not fun for me for quite awhile. Now it is, since I’ve been working on things to develop my voice and craft. The learning never stops, and there’s no ceiling to bump your head on.
The final piece of learning in how to find and use your voice is the doing. You must write, and finish your stories. Then write more stories, and keep learning.
I can explain to you the mechanics of playing Space Invaders on the Atari console. Really not much to it. The game controller had a stick and two red buttons. You moved your guy on the horizontal axis. Shoot the aliens before they land.
But to deeply understand Space Invaders, you have to play it. Attaining the high scores in that game is stupidly hard. Knowing when to fire, when to ignore the aliens and shoot the mothership, how to use cover while you have it. So many details. So hard to do. Which is what made the game addicting.
Writing is no different than a game, when you get down to it. Frustrating at times, impossible to truly master, addicting when you find your mojo.
And now I’m off to other projects. What happens after that? I don’t know. Don’t want to know. I follow the siren’s call that whispers impure thoughts in my head.
Go. Do. Write!
I hope you approach your novels with a sense of wonder and excitement. Have fun and don’t give up the dream.
I wish you well in all your endeavors.
These are some books I’ve found useful. Maybe they will help you, too.
Kevin J. Anderson. Million Dollar Productivity.
Leah Cutter. Business for Breakfast, Volume 1: The Beginning Professional Writer.
Jerrold Mundis. Break Writer’s Block Now!
Laura Resnick. Rejection, Romance, and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The Pursuit of Perfection: And How It Harms Writers.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The Write Attitude.
Dean Wesley Smith. Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing.
Dean Wesley Smith. Writing Into the Dark.
Douglas Smith. Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction.
Copyright 2015 David Anthony Brown
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This book has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. “National Novel Writing Month” and “NaNoWriMo” are trademarks.
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