November and National Novel Writing Month is over and while I didn’t make it to 50,000 words, I was pleasantly surprised at how many words I did rack up: 31,555 to be exact. I’d hoped to make it at least halfway there so this more than qualified for meeting that goal.
I’d written some scenes prior to November, some of which didn’t make it into the novel, but lots of them did. With those added in, Book 7 is more than halfway done from a first draft point of view. A long way to go, yes, but I was happy with the momentum. Particularly when I had a few unplanned events – unexpected house guests over the Thanksgiving weekend, I’m looking at you – that meant I couldn’t really give my writing its due for a few vacation days when I had planned to lock myself in a room and just write. But family comes first so here we are.
What did I learn? The biggest thing would probably be how much time I waste on things like Sporcle, games on my tablet, Facebook, Netflix, and cat videos – also called procrastination. I have precious little time to write and in November I guarded it fiercely. It was amazing to see how much I could get done if I was more concerned with updating my word count than seeing if I could guess the lyrics to a TV theme song. I still had time for reading – vital to a writer. I managed to feed my family and no one had to wear dirty clothes to work or school. I stayed up a little later than usual, but still functioned at work without being a zombie. (Thank you coffee!) I voted in this disastrous election (either victory was a sad option in my opinion) and didn’t miss the political arguments that followed. And I watched the Cubs win the World Series. Just being consistent was the key.
One sad thing I did read while I was plotting along with my book was this 2010 Salon article that pretty much slammed writers attempting a novel during National Novel Writing Month. Apparently, it began making the Internet rounds again this year, which is how I found it on my news feed even if I preferred it stayed buried.
I have been a paid, professional writer myself and I understand the author’s points, that some novels won’t be good. We had startup newspapers in various forms pop up (then close) during my tenure with the “real” paper and I sometimes winced at the output produced and the unprofessional behavior I witnessed.
But inexperience shouldn’t dissuade people from trying. I mean, if I’d taken that approach, I never would have learned how to cook or how to drive a car or that I should never, ever attempt any crafting project. But even if I did decide to try some home décor project from Pinterest, who cares? I mean, my family might because they have to look at it, but no one else will care I slaved for hours for something that just wasn’t that good. People paint and write poetry and garden and knit. Not all of them are as good as others. But if it gives them pleasure, it’s a project worth pursuing. It sure beats the bars.
And who knows where talent is hidden? Think about garage bands – some musicians started there and made it big. It all depends on hard work, luck and perseverance. If we don’t start somewhere and work at it, we never know if we can make it. But even if we don’t, it’s okay to enjoy doing things just for the sake of doing them. While these agents mentioned in the Salon article may roll their eyes at some really bad novels (and yes, I’ve seen them for sale online in ebook form. Some days I wonder if mine is one of them.), there may be some hidden gems. It’s part of an agent’s job. They’re still getting paid either way. Deal with it.
And professionals should beware of being too sanctimonious. I’ve read plenty of books published by the Big 5 that have not just minor typos, but big plot holes, use of wrong names and barely-there effort. I’ve given up reading an author I used to read faithfully because the quality of work has gone so far downhill. And I won’t mention the name of the last book in a very popular series that was so bad, I now seriously dislike the whole series. But I don’t blame the author; that’s an editor’s job. And if professional publishers can’t pull off top quality, then it’s pretty dangerous to look down their noses at a newbie.
So if you want to write — write. If you want to dance — go take a class and perform at a recital. If you want to sing — form a band or join the church choir. If you want to design things — pick something on Pinterest and go for it. Who cares if it’s perfect or not. And more than likely, it will be better than you think. Things born out of enjoyment usually are.
Stay warm and happy reading!