This year I decided to join the group of about 100.000 people that each one of them will try to write a 50.000 words novel in the month of November. Everything is allowed as long as it is fiction-novel and every one of the 50.000 words is written in this one month. In order to reach the number of words one has to write 1667 words a day on average, so the idea is to have fun and just write and don’t look back. Editing and rewriting is for the month of December or for 2009.
You can read all about it on the www.nanowrimo.org page.
I worked out a plot and I am basically ready to start. It would be nice to be able to “win” the challenge and reach this magical number of words, but I am already enjoying the enthusiasm of the whole project.
I can understand why Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” is a bestseller. It is a inspiring book with a mission: To get people to write as a habit in an honest and spontaneous way. She advocates the practice of freewriting – that is to sit down and start filling up that white paper. Don’t think but trust yourself and let your pen do the work. In her opinion the best writing is done this way – messages from the heart – unfiltered by ego or too much intellect.
The book is divided into 64 short chapters and most are – as Natalie says herself – written in one session. In these many chapters she deals with many aspects and problems one might encounter when creating the habit of writing as a act in itself. It was interesting to read her approach to deal with the feelings connected to it – the voices inside of us. To beat one’s worst criticizer – oneself – is the key to good writing.
This approach of training writing skills by continual practice for the sake of practice might not be for everyone, but maybe it should be. I think that every writer or would-be writer at least should try it.
While playing a game of cards it struck me how important it is to organize well. First it looks like the cards don’t combine and that I have no chance of winning the game, but when I start to sort them it suddenly becomes clear how my chances really are and what I am missing. So it actually changes my perception of my chances and possibilities and makes me feel far more secure and optimistic. It helps to get a good flow into the game.
It is obvious that the same is true for my writing and that is why I spend a good deal of time tagging, sorting, editing and collecting the pieces, stories and poems I have. I made a map with stories that I think are finished and stories I need to work on, and there is a third map with stories (and ideas) that didn’t make it to the second “almost done” map.
In an attempt to catch things I might have deemed “unworthy of any map” in the first place I implemented the habit of going through a random page in my journaling software (There is a shortcut for it) at least once a week.
It is satisfying and motivating to know more or less precise what the actual state of my writing is.
When words come quickly and my fingers barely can keep up with the stream of thoughts I usually don’t stop to look up a word in a dictionary. My English vocabulary isn’t too big unfortunately so I sometimes use words in three different languages. My own, that of the country I live in and English. In this way I keep the flow when freewriting.
When editing I translate the foreign words into English and this helps me to build a vocabulary of my own.
Sometimes these non-English words express something in a certain way that can be hard to translate and that keeps my writing personal.
http://www.literature-study-online.com/creativewriting/index.html is a useful overview of the basics of the technique of writing short stories. The 16+ articles, written by Ian Mackean, are short and to the point and form a good introduction.
I read a little in the autobiography “Tove Ditlevsen Om Sig Selv” last night and noticed that the style of that book was somewhat unusual in my eyes. The Danish writer had written it in a light tone and without going into many details anywhere which meant that she didn’t spent more than a few lines on most of the thoughts of events. The result was a rather weird kind of storytelling as big emotional events all sounded almost like a sidenote. It was as if she didn’t really cared about them or had truly experienced the situations and where she said she cared it sounded as if she was telling that she cared about the little mouse being chased by the cat in the children-cartoon on tv. Her husband joining the resistance during WW II sounded like if she was discussing him joining a soccer- or biliardclub. I expected that she would say that joining the resistance would do him good as he was a little fat and this running around during the nights would probably help.
It reminded of a writing style of a woman magazine, where great events in life unfold without giving the impression that those events are fully experienced or lived through, as if they happened because that’s life and that is what people do so I, the writer, did it too and then I went on to do the next thing people do.
I never read anything by Tove Ditlevsen apart from what I just read last night, so without referring to her writings and her success I thought that it is probably one way to become successful as a writer. Use a light, easy style reminding of for example woman magazines and write a little more complicated stories, including more original thoughts and make it all a bit longer than an average short story in those magazines. It should be a way of writing a well readable book that might appeal to many.