National Novel Writing Month

I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo this November, and I hope other writers will join me.

Something I’ve said (repeatedly) is that your first draft is allowed to be shit. It’s supposed to be. Crap writing. Take shortcuts. Use your adverbs. Whatever. Just get it out on paper. Because when you revise, you’ll see your shortcuts and you’ll fix them. Anything your character knew? They’ll show it instead. Those adverbs? You’ll turn them into description later.  The point is to stop scrapping your first drafts and finish your work.

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Stephanie Perkins.

Sometimes the things that matter the most to us are the hardest things to actually do. Sometimes they matter so much that we never do them, because our fear of failure is stronger than our fear of not even trying.

Before NaNoWriMo, I’d never finished a draft of a novel. I’d worked for seven years on an idea, and I only had seventy pages to show for it. My fear was growing. I was beginning to believe that I didn’t have the discipline necessary to become an author, and it was devastating.

I used to pooh-pooh NaNoWriMo: “How could anyone write good novel in a month?”

But I was missing the point. It isn’t about writing a good novel. It’s about writing a novel. It’s about finishing what you’ve started—a lesson I certainly still needed to learn. I signed up out of desperation. If I couldn’t write something with a beginning, middle, and end before December, I’d stop trying. I let go of my fear of writing a bad novel and used that pent-up energy to fuel the act of writing itself.

Here’s what I want you to know: The kindest thing you can do for yourself right now is to let go of this fear. Don’t worry about writing something bad. Just write.

Just write. Eventually, you’ll have a novel. You’ll have great ideas. Those ideas can be worked into visions. You can do this.

Via National Novel Writing Month.

Take Diana’s advice – Get Writing – No Matter How You Do It

There is no one “right way to write.” The important thing is that you write. So get to it!

via National Novel Writing Month. Here’s Diana’s pep talk:

The greatest thing about writing is that it’s just you and the page. The most horrifying thing about writing is that it’s just you and the page. Contemplation of that dichotomy is enough to stop most people dead in their tracks.

Success in writing—and by that, I mean getting the contents of your head out onto the page in a form that other people can relate to—is largely a matter of playing mind games with yourself. In order to get anywhere, you need to figure out how your own mind works—and believe me, people are not all wired up the same way.1

Casual observation (i.e., talking to other writers for thirty years or so) suggests that about half of us are linear thinkers. These people really profit from outlines and wall-charts and index cards filled out neatly in blue pen with each character’s shoe size and sexual history (footnoted if these are directly correlated). The rest of us couldn’t write that way if you paid us to.

Anyone educated in the art of composition in the Western Hemisphere at any time in the last hundred years was firmly taught that there is One Correct Way to write, and it involves strictly linear planning, thought, and execution. You Must Have a Topic Sentence. You Must Have a Topic Paragraph. YOU MUST HAVE AN OUTLINE. And so forth and so tediously on…

Got news for you: You don’t have to do it that way. Anything that gets words on the page is the Right Thing to Do.

Do you write in disconnected bits, where you can see things happening? I do.

Do you write in ten or fifteen minute chunks, when that’s all the time you have? I sure do. (I mean, it’s nice to have unlimited time, but nobody ever does. Nobody ever finds time, either—you make it, or you haven’t got any.)

Blap down a rough draft in a blazing roar of creation? No, I never do that—I fiddle and creep and go back and forth and back and forth; I don’t have rough drafts; I have finished scenes. They just aren’t connected to anything…

But no matter how you write, it’s always you and the page. And the page isn’t in a position to tell you anything you do is wrong. Therefore…anything you do must necessarily be the Right Way to Write. Go for it!

1. This is why you can read an article purporting to tell you How to Write, and discover that you just can’t write that way. That’s because the writer is not really telling you how to write; he or she is just explaining how they write. Maybe they have the same kind of brain you do—but maybe they don’t.

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the Outlander series. Its latest installment, Written In My Heart’s Own Blood, was released in 2014.