Monday, March 02, 2009

The Writer v. The Editor

These two posts from The Golden Pencil* made me realize how much NaNoWriMo has changed the way I write.

I used to agonize over every word. I used to not write, because I was forever waiting for The Perfect Opening. If I did write, every sentence took forever because I wanted The Perfect Word. Even for stuff that didn't matter, like school assignments.

Now, after five years of NaNo, I just write. I don't even read my blog posts before hitting the orange button -- which is bad, because I'm a terrible typist. (Seriously. It took me 17 keystrokes to type "typist." But that's also because I got my nails done yesterday, and it always takes me a while to get used to typing with my fingers instead of my claws.)

The good thing is I'm writing. The words are moving from my head onto the paper. I'm more confident about my writing; when I go back and re-read that stuff, I like what I've written (I used to HATE re-reading my stuff, which is why I never proofread my papers for school. Now I don't proofread my blogs because I'm lazy; I like what I've written, but my ADD-brain is just ready to move on to something else.)

The bad thing is... well, I can't say "I don't proofread" because I didn't do that before either. There is no bad thing! NANOWRIMO IS THE GREATEST WRITING EXERCISE EVER!!!

(Okay, there is one bad thing. My husband is not too fond of November.)

While watching the Oscars, I was thinking about what I would say in my acceptance speech.** (This was, coincidentally, right before Kate Winslet told us about her rehearsals with Shampoo-bottle Oscar.) In my speech, I decided I would have to thank Chris Baty and the rest of the NaNoWriMo/Office of Letters and Light team.

I have a half-finished novel that is still in the half-finished stage that I started my first year teaching (when my Guardian Angel had me stumble into the Borders Books on Westheimer in Houston, AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT a critique group was meeting. The dude working the info desk took me to the deep, dark corner where they met, and those amazing, lovely people invited me to join them. And write with them. And SENIOR YEAR went from a long-forgotten file on a floppy disk to A NOVEL). This was 8 years ago, people. And it's still half-finished. It has not yet been NaNoed.

Since that first November of 2004, I have written three novels (one of them took two Novembers) and one stack of drivel (which might could perhaps someday be salvaged into something resembling A NOVEL. Actually, UNA NOVELA, since that was my NaNo-in-Spanish year). I don't think of myself as someone who wants to write, because I do write. I am a writer. Thanks to Chris Baty.

Now I just need to work on the other little carp that keeps getting in the way, and edit all those beautiful, completed novels into something worth submitting. So I can start earning my millions.

PS: November's a long way away, but April is just around the corner! Have you signed up for Script Frenzy yet???

*Who used to have her own blog, but now is part of this Bizzia thing? Don't ask me, the posts arrive in my Google Reader and I don't question from where. Until I have to link to them.

**which used to be for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress; now it'll be for Best Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay


  1. Did you really mean to type "carp" in the paragraph before the PS? ha ha! Hooray for not editing!

    My friends are encouraging me to turn the one NaNo novel I did into a script. But that's REALLY HARD! I started it, but the more I thought through it, the harder it got. You shouldn't have too many characters or too many scene changes, etc. So after trying to put an outline together, I just left it in the deep recesses of my computer filing system. It's my someday play.

    I have always written with abandon, but I learned to do it better by NaNo'ing. I also learned just how FREAKIN' HARD it is to write something that makes sense. I discovered that I don't have a clue how to create conflict. Maybe because I avoid it in real life??

  2. Yes I DID mean to type carp! I'm trying out a new non-cuss word cuss word. :P

    The story I wrote for my first NaNo is one I originally envisioned as a movie. I thought it would be easier to write the script from a novel, so I wrote it in novel format first... but then I realized how much I liked the story, and how big the story was on its own (I don't think now that I could fit it into a movie).

    I'm JUST NOW getting into editing that first novel, so I don't know how all that will go. Do I have enough conflict? Do I build up to the climax properly? Blah blah blah-blah?

    I have a story: have a beginning, middle, and end. Whether it's a GOOD story... that is yet to be seen.

  3. I think the fish community might resent their name being used as a cuss-word wannabe. ; )

    It's funny how we have the same habits, even if I'm not a creative writer. I have proofreading anything, have only recently started skimming my blog posts before publishing to check for typos, or if it's a more serious post to hold off a day or 2 to see if new thoughts come to mind, otherwise I just type and then hit submit and that's it. Writing essays for school, I always agonized over that first paragraph, that first sentence. I could do the middle stuff great, but how do you introduce the ideas? Torture.

    Donovan and Sierra are wondering about their short story. (oh and I can't remember if I've mentioned this yet but we really like the Mrs. McTats story!)

  4. Nano didn't change my life much. Every year I try to work on a major project. This year I hope to finish my edits (I'm on about 1/2 through my second draft) and am already eager to get back to my major epic series. For me, the key to being able to write is to embrace editing. I have no problem at all changing even major themes if I convince myself (or others convince me) that it needs to happen.

    I think of our first meeting which all you guys read my first chapter. You made good points, and I sat down with my wife and looked at those points. Now the main character has his friend to help him with the garden in the morning as a nice deed because it is his birthday. There is less solo time, more dialogue, more humor, and a smoother introduction to the book.

    I think every writer who wants to take it on as a professional job has to embrace the editing phase, and get past the notion that any of us will ever write the "perfect story" the first time out. Just my 2 cents.

  5. @Marcy: The story is coming! I have a long literary to-do list, but The Adventures of Donovan and Sierra is coming!

    @Robert: I really enjoyed sitting down with that first chapter of my first NaNo and chopping it up, and I was proud of how it came out. I'm looking forward to the editing process, but I'm scared of it. Writing is easy, but editing? Now you have to make it good!