So as I come up for air, on my last free day this week (because tomorrow is Faerie’s first day at nursery, and I will be holed up here on the couch finishing The Demon Inside, which I expect to have done by the time I go to bed Friday night pleasegods), I wander around the internets. (In between bouts of inspecting my daughters’ hair. She’s home again today for a final delousing.)
Everyone and their brothers are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, something I’ve never done or cared about, and actually think can be counterproductive (yes, Anton, I’m running with it). I mean, if you want to do it and enjoy it, that’s fine. But you shouldn’t need that kind of encouragement to write a book. You shouldn’t need bells and whistles and pistols firing at the starting line and constant vigilance to get your book done. You should have the discipline to do it no matter what month it is, and you should remember that NaNo? Not a prerequisite to writing. So many people seem to have it in their head that NaNo is some kind of official thing. It’s not. There’s no prize for the winner (No, don’t use “NaNo winner” on your queries). It’s just a website, just an idea some guy came up with. You don’t need to come up with the idea for your book in July and wait until November to start because that’s the time to write.
I’m just very uncomfortable with the idea of encouraging people to think certain conditions need to be in place before you can write, that it has to be a particular time of year or you need to chart your progress or whatever. You know what you need in order to write?
*a writing implement
So don’t get the idea in your head that NaNo is the only time you can write a book, because that’s preposterous (see? I can use big words).
I don’t think NaNo is necessarily a bad program. But I don’t think it’s the be-all end-all either, and I think it can harm new writers. (Also, 50k words is not a novel.)
You know what else you need? A sense of your own story and what you want. I’ve been having some issues with this lately. You know that as a rule I don’t give writing advice. I certainly don’t think I’ve reached the level of skill and fame that means people would want to take my words to heart.
But you know what? There’s another reason I don’t give a lot of advice, and it’s this: Nobody can do it for you. Nobody can give you the secret of writing good characters or strong stories. Nobody can tell you how to make your story work. Nobody can tell you what story you should be writing (obviously, with some exceptions, because your editors can tell you whatever they want, but we’re talking about other writers.) Show up somewhere–a writer’s forum, an email loop, a blog, and start saying things like, “How do I make this character work?” or “How do I get people to want to read my book?” and expect that you’ll get an answer like, “Write it well.”
There is no magic bullet for writing. There’s no puzzle box or computer that will spit the words out in perfect order and create sympathetic, quirky, adorable characters who also do martial arts or whatever it is you want. That’s not going to happen. You have to do it yourself. And I’m tired of seeing people give that advice–or giving it myself–and getting pissy replies in return, like “But that doesn’t help me. I want to know HOW.”
The answer to that is the same as it is for every other writing question. Read a lot. Write a lot. Write the story you want to write. repeat quite a few times. Nobody is going to hand you the golden key, you need to work hard and find it yourself. So if you’re going to ask other people to basically do your work for you and then get pissy with them when they take time away from their own work to try and help you, bugger off and stop wasting both of our time.
Damn, I’m grumpy today, what’s up with that?