Writers Write

So, my last post was guest writer, Paul Cuddihy sharing his top ten tips for writing and the most obvious one was no. 10- WRITE!!! It’s simple. Writers write.

But if you need external encouragement you could always sign up to NaNoWriMo (National Writing Novel Writing Month) to keep your momentum going. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Nanowrimo is an annual internet-based creative writing project which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30 and it accepts entries from around the world.

The project started in 1999 with just 21 participants, but by the 2010 event over 200,000 people took part – writing a total of over 2.8 billion words. I’ve never participated before but I did consider it this year, albeit only for a nanosecond (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

But why when I claim to be a writer do I need a gimmick to keep me going?

I read a tweet recently by a writer saying if you call yourself a writer then you should be writing a minimum of 100 words a day (Paul and most other serious writers do 1000+) and if not, why not? No excuses.

I had to hang my head in shame.

I haven’t written a word of fiction since I submitted my dissertation at the end of August. Did I have a good excuse? Well I could say that after a piece of writing has been reworked over and over again, I was sick of the sight of my dissertation by the time I handed it in. Or I could say that I was busy looking for a new day job now that the course has ended but lots of writers work full-time and still manage to reach their daily word count. Or I could say that after moving house I had lots of DIY projects to keep me away from the laptop.

Or I could just be honest and say that I am a writer that isn’t writing at the moment, no excuses.

I have an idea though. It’s THE story I believe that I need to tell. Some writers would start scribbling the minute they had the idea but I’m letting my story-line grow until the roots have formed properly and it is ready to poke its head into the daylight and sprout leaves. I’ve also been reading a lot to inspire me. If not having a daily word count to boast about means I can’t call myself a writer then so be it. For now anyway…

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21 thoughts on “Writers Write

  1. In my opinion, not reading is as detrimental to a writer as not writing. After an intense writing and studying period, like the one you’ve just experienced, it’s good to re-engage your reading brain. Enjoy it and keep the new idea ticking over – it wouldn’t harm you to make the odd note, though, would it?!

    • Thanks Josephine. Yes, I needed a bit of space in my brain and just to take a deep breath before I dive in again. I should’ve said that I have been making some notes in the build up to starting again so I suppose that does count as writing, even if it’s just a few scribbled thoughts 🙂

  2. You’re writing here. You tweet. You’re not not writing. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo: terrifying thought. My word count is terrifically erratic, and a month of analysing and totalling would send me over the edge. And my children would not eat.

  3. Hi Helen. I too find I need time for the story to stew in my head before starting writing. After that the words can come quite quickly, but nor every single day. Some days I have to do research or more thinking or things like scrawled timelines and handwritten notes to myself. On writing days I currently aim for 2k words a day for first draft, but this translates to only 8k per week. This to me feels like good progress. 50k in a month is proper scary.

    • Hi Susan. Hearing other writers like yourself admit that they’re not churning out thousands of words every single day is a relief and yes, I’d buckle under the pressure of 50k in a month too. Good luck with your novel- 2k +2k+2k…is great and will soon add up! 🙂

  4. I don’t write every day, sometimes I don’t write every week … I have a large family and I have to be realistic, so I don’t set writing goals for myself. I do try to read every day though 😉

  5. Great post Helen. I admit to a personal loathing of ‘rules’ about what a real writer is and isn’t, how they should write, how much, how often, etc. Although I find being part of a fortnightly workshop a good motivator, it only works if I write because I’m feeling inspired. To me, guilt and obligation are poor reasons to force yourself to write. Like you I do a lot of mulling over and rarely sit down in front of a blank page without having some idea what’s coming. That is all a very valuable (and unquantifiable) part of the process. But as for reading, yes, can’t imagine a single day without that, and that counts too.

    There, I think I just racked up today’s 100 words. Hope that pleases the writing police!

  6. Great article Helen! I love the diagram as well. I’m with you on giving an idea some time to marinate before you start writing about it. The longer you turn it over in your head, the better you get an idea of the story, the plot and the characters. Then you can begin the fun part of actually writing! I agree that writers write, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a break to prevent yourself from burning out and giving yourself time to think about your next project – writing is meant to be fun, after all!

    • Thanks for the comment- you talk a lot of sense and your most important point is that if you’re not enjoying writing then why bother? I love writing but I love other things too and right now I’m not going to beat myself up about word counts. 🙂

  7. Been meaning to reply to this and (ha!) just haven’t found time. Found this on facebook and thought it had a place here. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/10/19/so-you-want-to-be-a-writer-charles-bukowski/
    I DO NOT subscribe to his view, I hasten to add! I have a 3 yr old and an 8 yr old and they take most of my energy. I go days without writing but I rarely stop thinking or reading. We all do it our own way and it’s great to hear other people flouting the rules of other writers; what works for them so clearly doesn’t have to work for everyone but it’s nice to be reminded of that.
    Re the poem – I come away thinking we should be encouraging each other to create, no matter our circumstances, and the (cough) charming poet is doing the opposite here. But actually he’s allowed to write whatever he wants, so perhaps Brainpickings should think twice about posting it as a bit of advice.

    • Thanks for the comment and link to the poem Pauline. I totally agree that it’s got to be a case of whatever works for you. My children are much older than yours but still require my time picking up/dropping off etc so writing has to take 2nd place when life gets in the way. Best of luck with your writing in the chunks of time you’ve snatched between all the other demands you have on you.

  8. Good luck Helen-sounds like you’re doing the right thing. I think lots of mulling is required to get the plot right. I’ve gone back to researching this week as I found I needed more facts to write from my eighteenth century character’s point of view. Congrats on passing your Masters degree by the way-you definitely deserve a bit of chilling out/reading time!

    • Hi Anita. Thanks for your best wishes. You’re so right, I definitely needed a bit of space after the intensity of the MLitt course. I’m hoping to get back into writing mode again soon. Good luck with the research! I’ve got huge respect for writers of historical fiction who need to get their facts right etc. That’s why I stick to contemporary fiction 🙂

  9. Hi Helen, I agree with Anita. For the first time, I’m trying to let an idea come together before jumping in and starting to write. I think you’re doing the right thing – I’ve always had LOTS of rewriting to do after I’ve written with just a glimmer of an idea beforehand. However, on the flip side, a quick word about NaNoWriMo – I did it last year and it was very liberating! I truly enjoyed the experience and the story I ended up with and if I wasn’t just in the process of finalizing revisions on my current novel I would have done it again (and plan on it next year). I think it’s a confidence-boosting experience to see what you can come up with in such a short time when you HAVE to write more than you’re used to writing every day (or at least much more than I write each day!).

    • Hi Kirstin. Yes I agree that,sometimes an idea needs to ferment for a bit before it’s ready to hit paper but I can also see the benefit of NaNoWriMo spurring you on. I’m impressed that you had a go and would do it all again- you’re braver than me!

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