Organizing: National Novel Writing Month
The biggest mistake fiction writers make is failing to spend enough hours actually writing fiction.
That seems odd, doesn't it? A tennis player gets good by playing tennis. A pilot gets good by flying. Seems like a fiction writer would know that you get good at writing fiction by writing fiction.
The trouble is that it's easy to sit down and start a novel. That hard part is staying seated and continuing to write. The excitement of doing the exact same thing as Stephen King and Nora Roberts lasts about twenty minutes.
After that, reality sets in. A typical novel is 60000 to 120000 words. Even if you could type 100 words per minute, it would take ten to twenty hours to type it all in.
But very few writers can write fiction at 100 words per minute. A novelist who puts out 1000 words per hour is considered pretty fast. That amounts to fewer than 17 words per minute.
So now the job amounts to 60 to 120 hours -- if you're fast.
If you can only squeeze out 100 words per hour, it's going to run you 600 to 1200 hours to get that first draft done. And yes, some writers have trouble managing that pace. It's slower than two words per minute, or about one letter every six seconds.
Writing a novel is a boatload of work.
What this means is that a lot of novelists never finish their novel. They'll get rolling, type out a chapter or two, take it to a critique group, and then realize that this writing game is a whole harder than it looks.
It's easy to fill up your time doing all the other good things that a novelist needs to do. Reading excellent fiction. Studying the craft. Getting critiqued. Planning the novel.
But never actually writing the darned thing.
That's why I like National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is simple: Write 50000 words in 30 days. That's 1666 words per day -- a challenging goal, but doable.
There are critics who'll tell you that, oh sure, you can drill out a crappy novel in 30 days, but it's impossible to write a good one in that length of time.
Sure, it's impossible if you believe it's impossible. But I know a fair number of published novelists who've written a novel in 30 days or less. Good novels -- ready to go to the publisher for editing. Some of these folks are New York Times best-selling authors. Others have won major awards.
If you can write a novel at all, you can write one in 30 days. If your skills aren't up to snuff yet, then no, you can't write a good novel in 30 days. But if you have good craft, then yes, you can write an excellent novel in 30 days.
Either way, fire breeds fire, and fiction writing breeds fiction writing. If you take the NaNoWriMo challenge and meet your goal, you're going to stretch yourself as a writer. You'll come out of it a better and more confident writer.
Most importantly, you'll have done something that only a small fraction of people on this planet have ever done. You'll have written a complete novel.
Whether the quality is good or not, quantity matters. Having done it the first time is the best indicator that you'll do it again.
You may be wondering if I eat my own dog food. Have I ever written a novel in 30 days?
The answer is yes. I did it once, under a tight deadline. But it wasn't a mere 50000 words. It was 90000 words.
It was hard work, 3000 words per day, and for most of those days I thought I was going to die.
But I didn't die. I wrote the thing in a white fury. The faster I wrote, the easier it came. I finished the book a day early. It was my best piece of work.
Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
If so, carry on. Don't stop now. Losers quit. Winners can't.
If you're not doing it this year, think about next year. What have you got to lose by trying? You grow by challenging yourself and then executing the challenge.
You can check out National Novel Writing Month here: http://www.nanowrimo.org
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 23,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com.
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In other news, The Frozen Tear is now at 36520 words, only 7413 short of my current record for my longest story. I guess I'll probably feel better about all this once I crack the record...