So, with November behind us, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) is behind us as well. I really want to take a few minutes and discuss just what I learned in such a short amount of time.
I think that as an author, there are many concepts of which we are aware of–things that we see written in every advice column. Things like: “write what you know,” “show, don’t tell,” and “don’t use adverbs/passive voice.” Sounds familiar, right? With rules like those, it’s no wonder that so many authors get intimidated before they can get a single word down; some level of perfection is required of a rough draft. Perfection? From a rough draft? Looking back, it strikes me as one of the most ridiculous concepts, and I can’t believe I thought that was actually a thing.
WORD VOMIT IS A GOOD THING
[…] writing well doesn’t come so easily for a lot of us (including me). It takes a lot of mental energy, strains your working memory and often makes you feel vulnerable if you try to be open and honest in your work.
The pure effort of writing is hard enough, but coupled with the pain of putting your work out into the world and letting others judge it, this can be enough to stop you from getting started at all.
The trick to overcoming this isn’t easy, but it’s surprisingly effective: give yourself permission to write badly, and just start.
I would honestly give the links provided above a look-through. All three articles were very relevant and helpful.
Below is an excellent example of ‘give yourself permission to write badly.’ I did it using my phone, which I later e-mailed to myself. This will make you feel better about yourself, guaranteed.
Oh, man. That’s terrible on so many levels. However, it is the result of just getting the words out. I didn’t give a lick about punctuation, spelling, or even what words emerged. As long as the basic concept was written out, I stopped caring. The time-crunch associated with NaNo puts enough pressure on you that caring becomes too much effort. Additionally, the more you care, the slower your word count will come. 50,000 is already an intimidating number, you don’t want to slow the process down any more than you have to.
To be honest, this might be the single, most important thing that I learned. With your aspirations as an author, your work is going to be seen by millions, right? Sure, they’re going to see your best effort, but the people working with you to get you there will be seeing your worst. You need to get comfortable with that, and this is a good way to start. Now, not everyone can flip that switch in their brain to just stop caring. For some people, it’s nearly impossible.
If you’re someone that is bothered by the thought of someone reading over your shoulder while you’re spewing out this absolute garbage, take your phone and hide in a corner where no one can see you unless they’re actively trying. And even then, you’ll easily be aware of it. Writing on your phone can be a pain (hence part of the reason why the excerpt just sort of runs together), so I found a few nifty apps to help me out. Please note: I’m not being compensated for the following.
Werdsmith is the one I use most often. It does have a “pro” version which gives you access to different layouts (screenplay, novel), and categories to sort your different projects. However just the vanilla version is fine for me, as the singular category that I have allows me to have multiple projects within, just in a less organized manner. It keeps track of word count (which really came in handy). You can set word goals, get breakdowns, and even an undo button in case you accidentally delete everything (I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved me).
Now, go figure, the one I use the least is the one that I paid for. Writing Toolkit is $3.99 in the app store, but this one is more of a portable literary reference guide.
It’s got lots of nifty little tools for where you’re on the go or don’t have access to the internet. Writing terms, a place to organize your characters, and plot devices are all available in one place. This one’s more dedicated to keeping track of everything you need while you’re writing so you can focus on more important things: like writing. I flipped back and forth between the two the entire time. Using these apps kept prying eyes away from my really crappy writing and therefore gave me a bit more confidence to keep going.
You can always use a notebook or a laptop towards the same end, but as I quickly learned, it’s easier to keep your phone away from nosy passerby. It took me a few days to acclimate to being so secretive. Eventually, though, I found that without anyone looking over my shoulder, I could just write, write, and write. The very last day was a word sprint of approximately 5,000 words. It wasn’t the only day I had word sprints like that, either.
The point is: JUST GET IT OUT! Is it relevant to the plot? No clue. Sort it out later. Is it what you wanted? Not really, but it’s a good placeholder. Hell, you might not even end up using it, which is okay. Quite a few difficulties authors face are in their heads, and are usually the hardest things to overcome. IT. WILL. BE. OKAY.
In the next blog post for the NaNoWriMo series, I’ll talk about the hangups of editing.
UP NEXT: WHY EDITING IS THE DEVIL
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