Almost every year of NaNo I learn something new about the process of writing. This year is no different. There are two themes this year:
- Practice, practice practice (How do you get to Carnegie Hall...)
- Write like it's the very first time you ever put pen to paper.
Practicing is self-explanatory. You can't get good at something if you don't practice. Now, I'm good at taking instructions and following them with quantifiable stuff. When it comes to writing I have a harder time (being a Virgo this is no surprise) but I do all right.
I wrote a book (unpublished but still a book) back in the late 80's and early 90's. It took about three years because I'd work on it a bit and then come back to it later. I remember sinking into the writing and savoring it. I wrote anything that came to mind without worrying whether it advanced the story, whether it was doing more telling than showing. I didn't worry about passive verbs and awkward grammar. I simply wrote.
Looking back at it, some of the writing was the worst, most cliched drivel imaginable but some of it was pretty good. It was stuff I'd match up against the best fantasy writers of the day and not feel shamed by it.
Then I started reading books about writing and editting. I started attending writing panels at BayCon and WorldCon. I realized that I didn't know anything about writing and that I'd done it wrong that first time. Each piece I wrote after that with the intention of shopping it to sci fi and fantasy markets become harder to write. In the last few years I likened it to Carol Burnett's description of child birth - pushing a piano through a transom.
I learned a lot but, being who I am, I thought that I had to know all this stuff when I was writing my first draft, that I had to get tense and tone right, that I had to agonize over very word. I'd forgotten the productive joy of spilling thoughts uncensored onto the page. Writing had become terrifying, editing had become absolute agony.
This time around, I determined I would write and not edit, let the words drop on the page however they wanted, let the characters go where they wanted and if they were stubborn, quiet, recalcitrant, that I would go with the first idea that popped into my head, no matter how cliche, just to keep the words flowing.
Then I read Jonathan Stroud's pep talk for week one. It reminded me of the joy of writing that first book almost two decades ago. It's all right to right crap as long as you enjoy the crap. That's how you get the roses to grow later when you start editting.