Journeys in Writing – What is NaNoWriMo anyway?

So, we’ve come to the time of year when it’s time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo again.

This is what I’ve been reading in blogs all over the place, but I’ve only just really decided to take part myself. In fact, I only heard about it for the first time this summer. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t at first, and man was it confusing..? Surprisingly few blog posts actually explain it! Thank goodness for google!) NaNoWriMo is short of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 30 days. No mean feat!

A few months ago, I would have passed this off as wishful thinking. How could I even hope to achieve that? Me! I never finish anything, unless there is an obligatory, unavoidable and imminently looming deadline on the horizon. And even then it’s a struggle! How could I possibly achieve something so demanding, for which the only consequences of failure would be personal disappointment?

But this time I’m really determined. By putting it out there in this blog post (eep!) I hope to make myself accountable, and therefore spur myself on to actually achieve this. I’ve even been avidly perusing the internet for any advice that can be gleaned from there (I never learn!). Of course, not all of it’s useful, but I have found some great stuff on Kristen Lamb’s blog, which is definitely worth a read.

And if it’s too hard? Well, nothing worth having is ever easy, and no worthwhile achievement can ever be gained without working for it.

And if I fail? Well, at least I’ll have gained something! And there’s always next year…

What about you? Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? Any advice or encouragements? I’d love to hear from you.

Journeys in Learning – The Trouble with Advice

Sometimes, being new at something is really hard.

It is hard to jump into something feeling like everyone knows more about that something than you do. It can be very tempting, instead of diving into that something and working at it until you get better, to try and find every piece of advice you can about it. This is certainly what I tend to do.

In some ways, finding out how to do something from more experienced people is a great thing. It provides important signposts for the journey, and helps you know what to expect, and if you’re on the right track. The trouble is, most advice you find on the internet (which is where I get most of mine!), or even in books, will not be tailor made for your needs. It is near enough impossible to find a piece of universal advice that will suit every person and every nuance of situation, even if it seems to be quite specific to your problem.

Allow me to give you an example.

This summer, having decided (rather tentatively) to give writing a try, it was my first instinct to plunge head-first into an overwhelming ocean of writing advice, from authors, publishers, bloggers, even newspapers and magazines. I soon found, however, that, rather than making me feel prepared to begin my actual journey as a writer, it was making me feel disheartened and inadequate. Take this article for example:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

It’s a huge list of writing tips proffered by successful authors. You don’t actually have to click on the link (it’s a pretty sizeable list, and that’s only part one!), because I’ve picked out just a few pieces of advice to illustrate my point:

“Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.”

“Write only when you have something to say.”

“Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.”

How on earth do I breathe life into something? Am I over-explaining things? How do I trust a reader when I don’t really believe anyone will ever read this?

Do I really have something to say? Is what I’m about to write good/important/worthy enough to even put into words?

Do I really love writing enough to make this work? What if I don’t want this enough? Am I just kidding myself???

Do you see what I’m getting at? None of those were bad pieces of advice, quite the opposite. But it’s my reaction to them that is the problem. What immediately springs to mind is not how I can incorporate these into my writing, but rather all the ways I can possibly fail to do so. This may just be my insecurities talking (when do they ever shut up?). But I’ve found that my writing (and peace of mind) is much more content when I shut out others’ advice (I’ve already read enough of it to last me a lifetime!) and just WRITE!

Now I just need to take my own advice…