The month of WirMovember is finally behind us, and it seemed that if, for some, it could have lasted a few more days. Last night I saw friend after friend post up on Facebook that, yes, they’d reached their fifty thousand words, and they’d won! Yah! How much did they reach their fifty thousand words by? 50,023. 50,102. 50,048 . . .
You get the idea. They made it across the line, and I gotta give them props for it, because nailing fifty thousand words in a month isn’t always the easiest of things.
Which brings up a couple of conversations that occurred last night. One was with The Muse—yes, she was around last night, mostly wondering what I was going to do next, as by “next” she meant, “You aren’t going to spend all your time trying to model space stations in 3D rendering programs all the time, are you? I thought you were a writer.” Of course she’s correct, I am a writer, and I can prove it—
We were discussion the frustration that comes from being creative: how people around you don’t understand what you do, how you work in a vacuum, and how you have to spend so much time waiting for something to happen. For example, how do you get people to buy your self-published works? Or how long do you wait for someone to get back to you, letting you know that they’ve bought your story, and in another few months you’ll see your words appearing in print?
It’s not a lot of fun to be in any of these situations, not really knowing what to do next, and what’s going to happen if it doesn’t come. You keep pressing on, in either case, but sometimes the very act of pressing on is a killer, because you feel a bit more isolated each time something doesn’t happen.
There’s very little you can do about it, too, because writing is pretty much a solitary sport. Yes, you can hang out in cafes and clubs and write away—I’ve done that, and I actually enjoy it—but you’re still on your own. You don’t have cheerleaders standing behind you yelling, “Go, Cassidy, Go, Cassidy, get that next two hundred words . . . Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy, Go!” Not gonna happen, at least not in real life.
But herein lies the rub: if you don’t write, and keep at it, you not only get rusty, you get worse. And this brings up the second, very short, conversation I had last night . . .
It was really a pop up IM while I was on Facebook, and it was from a friend, a fellow NaNoer, who said she’s been torn apart by another woman simply because my friend had forwarded the opinion that you have to write every day if you want to become a better writer. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she was insinuating that writing was a skill as much as it was a talent—which, if you know anything about any creative endeavor, that’s absolutely true.
I saw a quote pop up last night from Clive Barker, a few words of wisdom that he was offering from one writer to a whole lot of others. It’s short, it’s sweet, and there is a whole philosophy in them:
Writers write. That may be an obvious thing to say but [it's true]. There’s no such thing as a potential writer, there’s only somebody who is doing the thing. It’s like saying you’re a potential boat builder. No, you’re a boat builder when you’re building a boat.
Stephen King pretty much offered the same advice. If you want to get better, you gotta write. Think of that creative portion of your brain as a muscle, and then think about what happens if you work it on a regular basis: it develops, right? The reverse is also true: you sit on your ass and do nothing with that muscle, it atrophies, it becomes weak and useless.
Where do you get your writing work out? Places like . . . here.
This is the real paradox. You have to keep writing to get better. After a while you’ll build up a body of work—but what do you do to get it out there for people to see? There are no easy routes to any of this, for if you write every day, you’ll end up with a lot of stories—stories that want to be published.
All you have to do after that is convince someone to publish you.
I write every day. If I’m not working on a story, I do posts for my blog. I’m very good about this, because I feel the five hundred or more words I write every day allow me to work on my craft. I need to come up with new posts, new ideas, new titles every morning. This is the process I use that allowed me to grow, to become a better writer.
To work out at the gym, so to speak.
This doesn’t mean I’m slacking with the stories. When speaking with the Muse, I told her what I’ve done in the last thirteen months, from the start of NaNoWriMo 2011, to the end of NaNo 2012. When I started working out the numbers, it was a bit surprising to me, even though I’m the one who wrote all of the following.
It worked out like this:
Her Demonic Majesty; novel, 86,000 words.
Echoes; novella, 21,000 words.
Couples Dance; novella/novel, 52,000 words.
Transporting; novel, 45,000 words added to complete story.
Diners at the Memory’s End; novel, 54,000 words.
Replacements; novelette, 12,000 words.
Samhain in Transition; novelette, 9,600 words.
Kolor Ijo; novel, 69,000 words.
With the exception of the first novel everything else was written during 2012. Adding up those numbers, I’ve written about 349,000 words. If I throw in Kuntilanak (novella, 25,000 words) and Captivate and Control (novelette, 10,000 words), then I kick that total to 384,000 words.
When I kick in the blog content . . . I always strive to do five hundred words a day. Sometimes I go over (like with this post), so the word count average is bumped, but for the sake of not getting too crazy, I’ll say I average 550 words a day.
So thirteen months would be 395 posts, but there have been some double posts, so lets say I’ve completed 400. The math is pretty simple: I’ve published about 220,000 words for this blog since last November. Probably a little more, but I’m not going to take the considerable time necessary to look at every post to get an exact total. That’s just crazy.
What is my final count? 568,000 words for the last thirteen months. What does that look like in real life? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was about 257,000 words. Stack a couple of them together, and when compared to what I’ve written, those are still short about fifty thousand words.
Then if I add in my other stories, you could throw a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on top of those two Order of the Phoenix novels, and that would represent just about everything I’ve written in the last year and a half.
Has all that writing made me better? Yes, it has. I’ve become better at researching, I know how to use my skills much better, I know how to watch out for things that can hurt my writing, and I’ve sharpened my editing skills.
You have to write every day to get better, to develop your skills, to understand your craft. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you need to get that in there. And keep at it until you finish what you’re working on—
I mean, no one ever sailed off on just the keel of a boat. And no one who ever called themselves a writer sent out unfinished stories.
Get to work on that boat; you have some travelin’ to do.