Thursday, October 22, 2009

One Word, One Sentence, One Paragraph At A Time: Baby Steps Toward That First Novel

It's almost NaNoWriMo time again and while I've never participated in this event I thought I'd comment on writing a novel. This is by no means a nut-and-bolt breakdown of writing something as monumental as a novel, but it should spur some motivation in anyone who reads this and wants to make the commitment it takes to undergo the journey to produce something as lengthy as a book. Here's how I do it, in a nutshell...

It's amazing how many people want to become writers, or at least, how many say they want to write a book. Most of these people never make the time to ever write to begin with, but that's a whole different topic I may address later. For those that do make the time and then sit down, trying to write, they soon become frustrated by the monumental task of writing a novel. I didn't have that problem when I wrote my first book, The Shadow People. I read Stephen King's book, On Writing, prior to embarking on the task of writing. (I seem to do everything the hard way first)

In his book, King says to commit to a regimen of 1,000 words every day (and that it is permissible to take one day off each week). He said that in a period of three months, one could have a novel. Granted, there is a lot of other factors that come into play: creativity, a good story idea, and fortitude, to name but a few. I already had an idea, however, and I did as he said. I sat down each day in a closed room and did a brain dump, putting my 1,000 words (or more, sometimes less) down on paper. Well, actually into the computer, but whatever, let's not split hairs here.

After three months had passed I had my first draft complete. I didn't sit and worry about how long the story should be, or suffering through a certain number of pages. I think if any of those concerns had carried much weight I might have been doomed before I started. I simply began strolling among the trees, comprised of words and scenes, until eventually, I came out on the other side and was able to turn and look back at the forest I had traveled through. It was a spectacular feeling!

Oh sure, there were days when I sat and tried to write those thousand words, but nothing wanted to come out. Those days were tough, but I stayed at my desk until I finished, and then there were days when I wrote two to five thousand words. Those days didn't come as often, however. For me, I simply sat down and looked at where I had left off. Once I was reacquinted with my place in the story, I watched as it unfolded in my head like recapping a movie or television show. As it played out, I sat by as a spectator, recording what I saw happening on the stage of my mind. With this technique, it's harder for the writer to pace the floor worrying about how many words he/she has written, or how many more they have to write to be finished for the day. Your job at this point is to simply watch happens and write what you see. The content will make itself: first as a word, then a sentence, and finally forming each paragraph at a time.

Writing is not an easy job. It's hard! Much harder than I first thought. Sitting down to write for one's self takes a lot of the difficulty out of it, but if you're writing for an audience and a living, there's so much more to worry about than how many words you can suffer through. If suffering through them is your primary concern, you shouldn't be writing anyway because then there's no joy in it. So, if you still want to write and you take it serious, just sit back and let your mind play and your fingers fly. Your story will eventually write itself. Just get it from your head to the paper. There's no one else that can transcribe that masterpiece but you, and the second draft is where you worry about fine-tuning it.

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