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Nov 21, 2012

NaNoWriMo Tip #21: Never Forget To Do This One Thing Before You Write

These are my personal tips for NaNoWriMo. You know the drill. Take only what works.

One of the keys to writing fast is to be in the flow. Inspired by the muse. Possessed by the demon. Drunk (with inspiration).

One of the hardest things to do is to make yourself write when you are not inspired.

When I was in high school, nothing could stop me from writing. I wrote all the time, always in a fever of inspiration. It was joyous, it was brilliant, it was unquenchable. The worst torture in those days was that I never had as much time to write as I wanted.

A weird thing happened once I became a full time writer. Even though I now had all the time to write that I wanted, I often sat for hours diddling at my computer, or worse yet, diddling for hours away from my computer, feeling uninspired and depressed and guilty about it.

Ugh. What happened?

I analyzed what had changed. One thing I realized was that when I was in high school, although it felt like nothing could stop me from writing, in fact, a lot of things stopped me. Classes. Homework. Dance practice. Dating.

Often as I was doing these things, I was also imagining a story. That’s what gave me the feeling that I was writing all the time, and that therefore this would be a good profession to pursue. Now, of course, I wasn’t actually thinking of a story every minute of the day, even while taking a Spanish test or kissing a boy. It depended on how well I was doing on the test or how well he was doing on the kiss.

If I was bored because I was stuck doing some activity I didn’t like, my mind would wander to my story and transport me to another world.

Aha! The problem with my life after I married and had kids was that I was never bored. (Be warned! That’s what happens when you marry a good kisser.)

More to the point, I had this idea that if I was going to be Writing, I had to be sitting at my computer actually typing words of the scene. I had somehow forgotten that when I was younger, I spent 90% of my time “writing” my story in my head…imagining the scenes in full 3D splendor. I would go to the park and swing for an hour, imagining. I would sit and doodle, imagining. I would walk around my college campus, aimlessly, just enjoying the sun or rain and architecture, imagining my story taking place all around me.

Then I Got Serious About Writing and totally forgot to employ my imagination.

Learning to compose at the keyboard is an important skill to have. Don’t get me wrong. I learned how to do that from my mother, and I’m grateful. There was a point when taking the story from my head, where it was beautiful and perfect, and transmuting via keystrokes to some form others could parse was like trying to grate cheese with my fingernails. It took forever and didn’t result in well-grated cheese. If you are a newbie writer, THIS may be the step that is still the most challenging for you…which is a good hint that it’s the step you need to practice most.

But now that I can tippy-type new material without breaking a sweat, the real question is whether that material is worth typing. Yes, I can force myself through a chapter, but it’s not how I want to write. I want that heat, that muse, that drunken inspiration.

I’ve come full circle. I now have to nourish my child’s heart, let myself go to the park and swing, or engage in some other activity, and just imagine.

This may sound crazy, but don’t discount it. Before you write your scene, imagine it. Don’t let yourself start writing it down yet. Try to exercise as you imagine…walk or swim or jog. Go outside if the weather permits. Or cook. You may be doing a lot of cooking today and tomorrow, for whatever bizarre turkey-related reason. Go through the same scene more than once, perhaps with different dialogue or different endings, and savor the best bits.

After I’ve imagined the same scene this way a few times, not letting myself type it yet, I am so eager to write it down that I race to my computer like a lunatic and type away. If the doorbell or phone rings, I literally don’t hear. I need to write. It’s unstoppable.
If you prefer these Tips as an ebook you can buy it here for $0.99:


1 comment:

scott g.f.bailey said...

This is great advice. I know that I spend a lot more time thinking about the story than writing it out, and none of that thinking time is wasted. A writer has only two real tools: imagination and language. You have to use both tools constantly to keep them sharp.