Capturing Truth

The core of writing

November is National Novel Writing Month. Every year at this same time, professional and amateur writers alike from all across the globe embark on a quest to write a novel in one month. The set word length for this proposed novel is generally 50,000 words. How great is this undertaking? Think of it this way. November has 30 days, so in order to even reach 50,000 words, one would need to write 1667 words a day. How much is 1667 words? One page in a normal word document will generally hold between 500 to 700 words depending upon the paragraph indentation one uses and if one uses double or single spaced lines. Thus, 1667 words would become two to three pages. How long does it take someone to write three pages? This varies from writer to writer but can take anything from an hour to four hours.

So by numbers alone, this shows that writing a novel in one month is not an easy undertaking.

Have I succeeded in this venture? Yes. Back in 2005, when I wrote my “Speckled Dust” novel, which stood at 56,579 words by the end of November. Have I succeeded since then? Sadly I have not, but not for want of trying. In 2007 I did not finish the novel but did manage to write 23,542 words in the month. Barely half of the suggested 50,000.

It is a grand challenge, and one that invigorates the writing spirit. The hardest part of this venture is not finishing the novel; it is starting it. When one sits down at the computer and opens a blank document, the white document and that flashing cursor becomes daunting and the project begins to look impossible. This is the greatest moment of truth. The ideas of characters and plots and settings one has considered and written down whether as an outline or random notes vanish from the mind. Don’t let this moment scare off a potential NaNoWriMoer. It can be done. Put one’s fingers to the keyboard, and just type. Keep typing. Don’t let fear or anxiety or thoughts of failure stop the flow of words.

Each and every one of us is creative. Is capable of writing something amazing and heartfelt. You don’t have to be a professional writer or the most amazing whiz at grammar and spelling. What you need is enthusiasm, a willing heart, and a desire to learn. This is where all writers begin. It takes time and practice to hone the craft and learn more about the specific details of writing. Forewarned: not all will like what you write. Does that mean you should stop? No! Keep writing. There is an audience out there somewhere. Just be willing to explore your options, to try new genres and styles, to learn all you can about the great and marvelous world that lies at the tip of your fingers. Brenda Ueland said it the best in her If you want to write (used only the first and/or second sentences for brevity):

If you want to write:
1. Know that you have talent, are original and have something important to say.
2. Know that it is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it.
3. Write freely, recklessly, in first drafts.
4. Tackle anything you want to.
5. Don’t be afraid of writing bad stories. To discover what is wrong with a story write two new ones and then go back to it.
6. Don’t fret or be ashamed of what you have written in the past.
7. Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self.
8. Think of yourself as an incandescent power, illuminated perhaps…
9. If you are never satisfied with what you write, that is a good sign. It means your vision can see so far that it is hard to come up to it.
10. When discouraged remember what Van Gogh said: “If you hear a voice inside of you saying: you are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working.”
11. Don’t be afraid of yourself when you write.
12. Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers.

This event is not about winning. It’s not about contests. Its about sitting down and trying your best. The purpose is to write. Don’t worry about if its good or not. Don’t stop to correct some grammar or edit your first paragraph. This is the rough draft, and those never look pretty. Just write and write and write, until by the end of your month, your novel has exploded from your hands and onto the screen.

Whether or not you finish isn’t nearly as important as the journey to that end. The fact that you wrote and tried is the best award one can achieve, for this month isn’t about winning any prizes. It’s about writing for the thrill and wonder of writing.

So don’t worry. Flex your fingers, and give it a try. No matter how many words you have at the end of the month, the fact is that you wrote is something in which you should feel pride.


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