"I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren't disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks." – Ian Fleming
Well, Readers, it's most definitely October, and that means in one month hundreds of thousands of writers around the globe will be busily working their ways towards as many as tens of billions of words through the smashing success that is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. As those brave souls galvanize themselves this month by hoarding coffee, candies, and typing-friendly snacks, let us pause to consider something:
1) You (yes, you sitting in that chair right now) could be one of those brave souls.
2) Probably you've already expressed a desire to share some story that you've got burning deep inside of you, so NaNoWriMo can be the catalyst to let that fiery tale into the realms of reality. (Sign up is free!)
3) There's no penalty for failure if you don't meet the 50,000 word finish line at the end of November (I should know, as I've not crossed that finish line a single time).
4) No matter how many words you write or don't write at the end of that month, those words that you did write are more than all those poor souls who say, "I've got a novel in me, but I just never find the time." By participating in NaNoWriMo, you didn't find the time. You MADE it.
5) Some of the best stories have been written in incredibly short amounts of time.
(Excerpted from James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers)
- William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks, writing from midnight to 4 AM, then sending it off to the publisher without changing a word. (You're not Faulkner, by the way).
- Ernest Hemingway wrote what some consider his best novel, The Sun Also Rises, also in six weeks, part of it in Madrid, and the last of it in Paris in 1925.
- In on stunning stretch (1953-1954) John D. MacDonald produced seven novels of high quality. Over the course of the decade, he wrote many more superb books, including the classic The End of the Night, which some mention in the same breath as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Also Cry Hard, Cry Fast which was the basis for the title of this [chapter].
So prolific was MacDonald that he was needled by a fellow writer who, over martinis, sniffed that John should slow down, ignore "paperback drivel," and get to "a real novel." MacDonald sniffed back that in 30 days* he could write a novel that would be published in hardback, serialized in the magazines, selected by a book club, and turned into a movie. The other writer laughed and bet him $50 that [MacDonald] couldn't pull it off.
MacDonald went home and, in a month, wrote The Executioners. It was published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, serialized in a magazine, selected by a book club, and turned into the movie Cape Fear. Twice.
Bell goes on to detail several other writers and their triumphant sprints to finished novels, but the point is that you can be a writer. Writers write. That's it. Period.
Jack London started writing with zero skill – barely able to put sentences together. But he wrote. A lot. At first he wrote almost eighteen hours a day. He filled a trunk with rejection letters. When he died at the age of forty, he was the single highest paid and most prolific writer of the era. If you're reading this blog, odds are that you're already a better writer than Jack London started off as. Daily texting, status updates, and constant streams of reading materials across hundreds and thousands of authorial voices means that you've got a SERIOUS head-start on Jack London. (Plus, he's dead, so he can't get any better and that means you can beat him!)
So, if you want to write, then write.
NaNoWriMo can help in a lot of ways – get you plugged into a community of other perspiring authors, give you the nudge to get back to your story, send you free pep-talks from authors like Brandon Sanderson and Neil Gaiman and Diana Wynne Jones.
As always, Thanks for reading.