I added about 200 words yesterday, and another 500 or so today… what I have discovered in the first two days of attempting the month long novel: I need a guiding direction. Right now, I have no idea what word will come next; no clear concept of –what- I am writing about.
I sat down last night to watch a few movies, and had my notebook and pen next to me to start building out some sort of inspiration or direction. Nothing. I was only able to put down a few ideas of things to help inspire me, nothing about what I want to write about.
It seems it has been so long since I have flexed my creative muscle that it has atrophied to a scarily stagnant point. I have been so focused in the past ten or so years in building out my technical writing muscles, that I have completely neglected the creative ones. I have substituted any thought about what _I want_ to write about with what I _need_ to write about for work.
I thought I would start by putting a few ‘first lines’ down, but that resulted in tripe. So, instead I pulled out a short piece (which accounted for the first 200 or so words) which I had written ages ago, to build out and use as a basis since it is the one short piece I am most proud of in terms of the craft of writing (the content is really irrelevant). Alas, I can’t even find the inspiration to build that out yet, since it has always stood as a complete piece in my mind.
So, I pulled out one of my favourite short works of fiction to read: Earnest Hemmingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
I figured a good read of an inspirational work would get me in the groove… which worked for another 500 words, but resulted in a poor imitation of what I had just read.
I knew when I started this process that it wouldn’t be easy, and that I was setting myself up for failure; after all, I hadn’t written for over 10 years, what made me think I could pull out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days when I also had 40-60 hours of work to focus on each week?
I think what I need to do right now is NOT focus on writing, but rather focus on a topic/theme/subject and find my muse to throw some inspiration my way. Perhaps pulling out a few of my books on writing fiction and novels may be a good start; a way to step back and evaluate or discover what I want to say, what story I want to tell.
At the same time I think I will still continue to try putting down a few paragraphs each day as an exercise in writing and flexing that creative muscle. It doesn’t matter if they are disjointed and unrelated. It doesn’t matter that they may be only exercises in building character or scene, or just focusing in on imagery or dialogue, it will hopefully help me build up those creative chops so when I find that story I’ll be ready to write it down at the speed of light and make my 50K words by the end of the month.. ah, hope springs eternal!
16 thoughts on “Reflections on NaNoWrimo, day 1 and 2…”
I would totally have to have an outline first, otherwise I would trail off and lose direction entirely. But I get stuck on the outline part. Which is why I don’t write anything! ummm
If I wanted to do this ‘correctly’ I’d agree; I need an outline… but I’m winging it, so we’ll see how ‘free form’ actually works, or doesn’t.
You’re writing, and I think that’s the most important thing regardless of how you do it or what comes out.
Thanks 🙂 and I agree, with one small addition/modification to the point you make: regardless of how it is done or what comes of it, I DO want it to be somewhat coherent and enjoyable for at least one other person besides myself. I’ll be sad if I end up with something I’m not willing to share.
That’s something I want for myself as well. We should make a game of posting occasional snippets that we’re particularly proud of.
I had actually thought of doing this as well…. part to get other’s input, part as ‘marketing’ to build some interest in what I was doing. Of course, I only HAVE a snippet now, so that would be the brunt of my creation. I think I’ll need to wait to begin posting until I have a more solid base to select from 😉
But don’t let that stop YOU 😛
I won’t. But so far I’ve only done a couple mini-scenes, so I too will wait until I’m ready with something more substantial. 😉
Though not a writer… but
I’ve some experience with the creative bit of my brain. My take would be that it’s not so much that you’ve atrophied your “creative muscle” as it is even more obdurate that you are. The creative spirit seems to have one thing more than any other and that’s strict commands and deadlines. This project has created an artificial restriction and drive to what you are trying to create so you are naturally rebelling against it. You could likely get away with one or the other, but both of those create to much constraint to what is by nature a wonderfully creative chaotic act. If you want to start creative writing again, do so, but don’t put a dead line on anything until you are back in the swing of it and your “creative muscle” gets greedy for the experience. Or conversely, put a deadline but not a specific goal like “it will be a 300 page novel”. That’s my take anyway.
Re: Though not a writer… but
There are times I agree with you wholly, and other times I can’t understand a word you are speaking…. in this case I am somewhere in the middle:
Any other time I’d be inclined to agree and try, however this is one of the few instances where i understand my creative process better than anyone else. It is the existence of a deadline that actually kicked my ambition into drive. To point; without any sense of deadline, but still a desire to write, I have failed to produce anything for a decade. With the immediate addition of a deadline and a clearly defined goal I have actually been able to produce 700 words more than without.
This is where you and I may be completely divergent: I thrive on clearly defined goals, regardless of whether i can attain it or not. I need that box to be specific and known before I can begin working outside of it. Additionally, I need the expectation of others to push me, since failing myself is easier than failing others.
That said, I appreciate your perspective, as it has allowed me to realize and define why I have been able to produce more in the past two days than in the past ten years combined!
Don’t think so much!
I’m so psyched that you went for it and signed up and are working at it! You’re more than capable of succeeding in this. It’s a marathon and it’s hard and the book will NOT be what you hope for. So long as you keep in mind it’s going to be a ride and you’re in it to have fun while working hard at it, you’ll be able to do it.
My main Generalized (which is to say unrequested) advice:
Focus on character at the beginning. Don’t think about what the story is about – you won’t know till you’re halfway through, maybe even further along than that – if you start with a focus on who your story is about, you’ll have your way through it. When something goes wrong and you’re in a dead end, you simply need to ask…well, what would so-and-so do? Meditate on it, and you’ll have an answer.
And the second bit is don’t worry about quality. Just type. Pretend you’re Kerouac on speed. Just gun for 1600 words a day – or whatever is necessary – and it’ll happen around you. The quantity will give way to quality when you least expect it.
The story can go anywhere, including nowhere, but the experience will be priceless. I did it two years ago and it was very satisfying.
Good luck, sir! You’ll do it.
Re: Don’t think so much!
Your experienced advice and suggestions above, combined with our IM chat earlier has given me new hope that 50k may actually be achievable.
You are correct, I was over thinking it and focusing on scene and story not character.
I agree with another poster who said ‘just type.’ Don’t censor yourself or judge how good it is. To say its a poor imitation of anybody is stifling you. Who cares if its a poor imitation…its writing. The more you do it, the better it will get. I’ve never known anybody who wrote a perfect first draft of anything.
Even Hemingway was a poor imitation of himself on his first draft!
What is it you want to write? Mystery, inspirational, romance, true life? Decide on a genre. Then describe the locations, describe the main character. It won’t be usuable as a novel, but many parts of it will be and will influence the rest. Remember, there are rewrites. Don’t go for perfection.
ah, therein lies the rub… I don’t know what I want to write. I just know I
wantneed to write.
and yes, I also agree, there is no need to censor myself. While easily said, it is much more difficult in practice. for this attempt, I will merely focus on character and what builds out of that. we shall see what comes of it. so far tonight, it has resulted in an additional 1700+ words. who knows what tomorrow will bring 😉
and to set your mind at ease; no I do not care if it was a poor imitation of hemingway. I saved it, I didn’t delete it. I am not, in any way focused on producing a perfect first draft. I know much better than that.
Good luck! But what world do you want to tell about?
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