There are over 114,000 participants all over the world, people imprisoning their inner editors (not to be confused with the guilt-monkeys or plot bunnies) for the month of November and tapping out 50,000 words–whole novels or parts of novels (like me–who will be finishing my first draft). November is for writing! All the other months are for editing.
What on earth am I talking about? Check out NaNoWriMo’s website and you’ll understand the creative energy whipping around the planet this month as people everywhere show up and write with literary abandon. (Or read my previous post.) So think of me, burning the midnight oil away . . .
Here’s a pep talk we all received from Philip Pullman, author of Northern Lights/Golden Compass and the rest of the His Dark Materials Trilogy: You need to remember that if you want to finish this journey you’ve begun, you have to keep going. One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a ship when the engines stop and there’s no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track … all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn’t have been necessary at all if you’d just kept going!
But once you’ve established a daily rhythm of work, you’ll find it energizing and sustaining in itself. Even when it’s not going well. This is a strange thing, but I’ve noticed it many times: a bad day’s work is a lot better than no day’s work at all. At least if you’ve written 500 words, or 1000 words, or whatever you discover is your most comfortable daily rate of production, the words are there to work on later. And when you do visit them in a month’s time, or whenever it is, you often find that they’re not so bad after all.
The question authors get asked more than any other is “Where do you get your ideas from?” And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn’t arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is “I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.”