Week 14 Report: Slow and Steady or Writing Like There’s No Tomorrow

by Travis Schwipps

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the last few weeks of our journey together, but the first weeks of our writing careers.

Here in the fishbowl our in-class beta groups have finished. We’ve all spent some time together discussing ideas and revising the beginnings of our novels. All of those long, hard weeks of writing are finally –

Well anyway, they’re not for class anymore.

It also turns out that this is the end of NaNoWriMo. I’m sure most of you have heard of it, but for those of you who haven’t, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Basically you sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and try to write at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. If you do it and have it verified, you “win”.

You don’t need to do the math to realize that’s a lot of writing!

But here it is anyway: for this class we’ve been doing at least 2000 words a week. For NaNoWriMo you’d have to do about 1667 words a day.

There are pros and cons to participating in something like this. One thing it does is gives you a deadline. This is the point that the people of NaNoWriMo make, that many people if left on their own will wait until they have more time, or feel inspired, or any number of things. Basically they wait and wait until eventually they just give up entirely. Having a strict deadline forces you to write. For people who don’t have a grade depending on it, that might be just the push they need.

A con is that it’s very much a “binge writing” experience.

Early in the class, we had a brief discussion on writing styles, the people who write a little bit at a time vs. “binge writers”.  One of the points of this course was to encourage us to make writing a part of our schedule, not to write large gobs of words over the course of one week.

If instead of having a weekly count we only had a goal to reach by the end of the semester I know at least I (and I imagine plenty of the other students) would have procrastinated and there would have been a lot of binge writing done during the last couple of weeks and I would be more stressed out than I already am.

Now, I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, but that’s what I imagine it would feel like. The stressed out, “I have to get this done, I have to get this done, I have to get this done.” Except it would last for an entire month.

And I know for a fact that my writing is awful when I’m stressed. Half the time it doesn’t even make sense. At that point I’m writing just for the sake of putting words on the paper. It turns into a number game, not writing a story.

Still… sure it may be crap, but hey, you just wrote an entire story! Good job! Even if you do have to go back and rewrite everything because it’s absolutely horrendous. Rewriting is easier than new writing. And some crazy people even thrive on that deadline stress. For some people that brings out the best in them.

I’m not one of those people, but the thing is, that’s just me. There’s no right way to write a novel. There are pros and cons to everything, what’s most important is that you make the time to write. If you write a couple thousand words a month and finish a novel in a year, great. If you write a couple thousand every day and finish in a couple months that’s great too. Set aside time to write. Make a schedule and stick to it.

If any of you have a particular way you like to write, or if you were/are a NaNoWriMo participant, leave a comment and let us know about your experience. Everyone’s different and it’s always interesting to hear how other writers operate (and sometimes it’s comforting to know there’s others who write like you.)

Takeaways:

  1. Write how you want, as often as you want. Just make sure you write (but it is still a good idea to have a schedule. It makes time management easier).
  2. If you need deadlines, make them. Whether it’s NaNoWriMo, or a promise to a friend to be done at a certain time. Just make sure you stick with it.
  3. Writing NaNoWriMo over and over is good exercise for your shift-pressing pinky finger.