Tuesday, November 12, 2013


NaNo Update:
Days spent writing - 8
Words written - 36,146
Goal - 100,000 words in 16 days

Are you one of those writers whose family and friends shake their heads or chuckle whenever you mention you write books? They don't believe you or believe you can. It's frustrating, isn't it?

I have a different sort of problem. My family and friends know I write and that I spend hours doing it and they've seen ample proof. My writing peers haven't. It's partially my fault because I don't put everything I've written or am writing out for anyone and their dog/cat to see. Another writer can glance up at my NaNo goal and my word count thinking "No way," or, "She's totally exaggerating."

True, my husband has shaken his head (smiling) as I report my daily word count. He especially thinks its funny when I complain about only getting a couple of thousand words done in a couple of hours. But he knows first hand what I'm capable of.

I wrote my first, industry-standards-length manuscript when I was fourteen. (I had written shorter stories before that.) Since then I've completed 20 others. I have twice that number in incomplete novels and twice that in novel ideas written out in summary or outline form.

Here's some of that actual proof; the novels I have printed out:

I've put thousands of hours into writing, trying to improve my craft, and experimenting with style, voice, and plot structure. I've learned a lot. Spending 10,000 hours on something is supposed to technically make you an expert.

But here's the thing. I've never claimed to be a fantastic writer and I'm certainly not an expert. I do admit I'm pretty good at critiquing and knowing what goes into a novel, but as to writing, I'm the first to confess I struggle. I have fantastic ideas and I'm good at world-building. In fact, one of the reasons I don't air my stuff online is because of that. Too often when I have shared some of my work, a short time later I find that the people I shared it with were so inspired that they've copied those ideas. Not everyone, of course, but it does make me leery about who I share things with. You see, having great ideas is a fundamental element of writing, having those ideas published and to be able to say, "Yes, I thought of that twist or unusual character and here's the concrete proof of it," would totally rock. Not being able to publish those ideas stinks. Who in their right mind wants to be a muse rather than a creator?

There are no copyrights on ideas, but you don't want to take something you've cultivated for years, share it with someone else, and then have them practically rip it off - with their own spin, of course. It's not fun and doesn't exactly help for a friendly relationship in the future. That's also one reason why I like to beta read for other people, that way I can go out of my way to avoid writing like them or using anything that sounds like their ideas.

I've studied the craft of writing for years. Reading books on writing, blogs, studying the works of published authors. I've learned a ton. But that doesn't mean it's translated into my own writing. I am, after all, still me. And being myself is proving to be a problem. I won't bore you with the particulars. The market is fickle. One type of voice and style dominates for awhile then gets outed when everyone's tired of them. A new star rises, everyone tries to milk it for all its worth, then it too topples. I sit back and admire this great guessing game even as I inwardly loathe it.

The fundamental idea is simple. Someone has a story to share. They write it. They publish. Readers can choose that story or something entirely different if that story doesn't suit their fancy. Simple in concept but vastly different in execution. We human beings have trust issues and we develop our own tastes and standards jealously. We want to reject the notion that someone else's tastes and standards may run opposite of ours and also be valid or good. We like to belong to a collective, to what we perceive as popular or desirable. We push others to belong to that collective and to produce what conforms to the collective's ideas. Ironically, the publishing collective is always changing and sometimes broadsided by a novel considered radical or too different to be acceptable. Another irony is that writers and those in the publishing industry like to vaunt how rebellious or trailblazing they are. Yet the cold-hearted business side is what grinds the gears and pushes for conformity.

My point, overall, is that writing is a lot of work for most people, and there is always a growth factor. Some may only have one really great novel in them, others have the gift of churning out several. Put in your 10,000 hours of learning and writing then do more. It's important to realize why you are writing.

Doing NaNo has reminded me of why I write. I love the rush of getting the story out on paper. I want to go back and read it again and again, to relive it. And I enjoy pushing my creativity to see what I'll think up next. I'm seldom surprised, so to have a story or character surprise me is the ultimate thrill.

You will have your own reasons for writing. Many of us will try to take that story and try to share it. Most of us will be denied. The reasons for this will also vary. Some shoulder the publishing yoke as well as the writing one. Others will shelve their story, write a different one, and have another go at the institution. We've all read the stories that say something like, "It took me three books before I got an agent/publisher." And others will take their deflected work and give up on the idea of publishing.

I have at least fourteen novels that none of you will ever see. I have no intention of sprucing them up and sending them out into the world. They were indulgent, practice novels. I do go back and read them from time to time. They're for me. Some of the great ideas and world building pieces, or even characters from them will wend their way into the stories I do intend to share. How and when I want to share them is something I'm debating about.

So for any who may have doubted, you have the picture proof now. I have written what I've said I've written. I am prolific. Writing for myself is easy. Writing for the few people who understand me is easy. Writing for the general public is hard. I confess this freely.

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