Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Writing

Did I mention I'm writing a book?

Well, I am!

I started out with a good story idea from my husband, Jason, who has a constant stream of ideas at the ready that are not limited only to stories, but practical inventions, rules for society, and of course, band names and concept album titles. But one particular idea he had for a story seemed to have a lot going for it, so either I offered to write it or he told me to, I forget which, but the commission was made. I started with a few short stories and then forgot about it. He encouraged me and sometimes nagged me to keep on with it. "Sure, I will," I'd say, and then played Fallout 3 instead.

So, when National Novel Writing Month came around this year, which is annually in November, a friend of mine posted about it on Facebook and I figured it was a sign. This is a project to encourage writers to drum up a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in 30 days time. There is no prize other than satisfaction of completion. What there is, is nationwide support from thousands of other writers who are undergoing the same project. Within days, I was perusing through the NaNoWriMo (get it?) message forums, which were very slow by the way due to heavy amounts of online traffic. I signed up for a regional forum and found there are literally hundreds of people in my general vicinity doing the writing challenge, and events were set up at my local library that I can practically walk to.

Who knew?

So, I finished the 50,000 word count, by accident sort-of, since I was away over Thanksgiving and was offline using a tool that didn't have a word count function. Anyway, I finished the count, although the story itself didn't have an ending yet. All the advice on the website, and the helpful emails that NaNoWriMo puts together from published authors and founders of the site, said to give it a rest for a bit before returning to the draft for editing. But, it was important to come back.

That's the point I'm at. I'm halfway through a first general edit. I still have to write an ending for the story, but it helps to go through everything to clear up some inconsistencies. The story is a lighthearted supernatural mystery of sorts, and there is a lot of mythology and stuff to work through. Sure, I invented a lot of it, but it should probably make sense. I spent at least 8 hours one Saturday, and just as many hours on Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, going through this. I have this feeling it will never be fully revised but I'm at least trying, right?

I should make note that I don't exactly know what I'm doing. However, a friend invited me to a writer's group, which I attended once so far this year and may go back. Another writing group is a little closer in distance and at a more convenient time, so my plan is to check that one out before I commit to a group. Either way, I absolutely see the benefit in having a peer group evaluate work. It's a bit terrifying, but I made a promise to myself that I would clean up an appropriate length excerpt to submit for peer review. Then I'll run away and hide.


  1. Really proud of you for this Steph!

    I have been unable to get to my writer's group for quite a while thanks to this MBA program, but it was one of the best steps I took for developing as a writer. Your friends and family will tell you your stuff is great. Publishers and agents may reject it with a form letter. A writters group will actually tell you what needs to be better.

    They should really call them an Editor's group instead of a writer's group because they more teach you how to fix stuff than to write it in the first place. The most I've learned is by critiquing someone else's work and then hearing someone else critique it. It's amazing the things that people catch that I didn't notice.

    Cheering you on to the finish!

  2. I went to a writer's group with a friend but I haven't committed to going to it regularly. I definitely see the benefits.

  3. There's the cliché that {insert creative pursuit here} is never finished, only abandoned. And while it's true in some regards, it's not useful. I'm only repeating it now to point out the fact that I'm above cliché, even though I'm not.

    Anyway, it certainly is possible to get to a point where you feel that everything is in it's right place and expressed in the right way.

    However, I'm pretty sure there will always be something in everything you write that will make you cringe at some point. Maybe not be today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

    Having majored in creative writing, I can attest to the helpfulness of a writer's/editor's group/workshop whatever. It is quite an effective motivator.

    My general advice is to listen to the issues people bring up, but not necessarily the solutions. Though it can be interesting to know how another writer would tackle a problem, it's rarely useful.

    So there's my unsolicited advice.

  4. Thanks for the feedback. That makes sense about looking at the critiques but perhaps using a solution different than what they suggest. Sometimes another person's editing suggestion has a slant to it with his or her own voice, that it would not fit my own work. A good thing to keep in mind!


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