Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reflections On Writing

I've been meaning to post a blog entry in which I talk about things I learned after writing my first novel (The name of my book is Never Upon a Time, and I will provide more information about it soon). I realize, after reading that first sentence, that I sound like some puffed up sage who just rolled his eyes and agreed, begrudgingly, to expose some hard earned personal wisdom. Rest assured, I don't think that highly of myself—or my writing. 

If you've never written a book, you might find some of this information useful. If you have written a book, you might smile as you read this with warm recollection. If you're in neither of those two boats, I'll throw in some pictures to keep it interesting.

First Musing: The rough draft is a rough draft . . .

One thing I love about writing is that, even if no one ever reads a single sentence I write, reading is far more enjoyable because of my hobby. Once you try to write a book, you realize how difficult it is to just finish the dang thing, let alone write something good

For some reason, I figured if I took my time writing my book, by the time I was finished with the rough draft I'd pretty much have everything down how I wanted it, with little need for revision. I was wrong. I'm still working on the revision and editing, and I am guessing by the time I finish I will have spent about the same amount of time revising as I did writing. And now that I look back at it, I think that's a good thing. 

(A painting of me finishing my rough draft)

There were many moments that I could tell I didn't quite like how a scene played out, but I needed to move on. I made a note of it in my spiral notebook, and once the rough draft was done, I went back to those spots and spent a large amount of time hammering each sentence and word into place without worrying about forgetting an important upcoming scene. 

Second Musing: Any accomplishment, no matter how small, is important . . .

Every day, after I finished writing, I would look at my word count and excitedly enter the number into an excel spreadsheet I made. I got the idea from NaNoWriMo, but I didn't want to wait for them since I wasn't starting in November. It seems like a small thing, looking at how many words you added that day, but for some reason it was a huge motivator for me. Some days it would only be 300 words, others might be close to 10,000, but the important thing was that it wasn't 0. And the really important thing was that it wasn't a string of 0's. 

Every time I added a new amount, it automatically added up my total word count, and seeing my total hit 20,000 then 30,000 then 40,000 just made me want to write more. Obviously, you need to be cautious that you don't get too caught up with word count—it's the quality that counts, not the quantity—but anything that gives you an extra kick in the pants to write is a good thing. 

Third Musing: The peak is still a long way off . . .
This one was pretty interesting. Growing up, and in my college years, I always looked at writing a novel reverently, as if it were some near-impossible task. After reading a great series I would sit myself down in front of the computer with a blank word document open and start working on my own masterpiece. It won't be as popular as Harry Potter, I'd think to myself, but maybe it will be as big as Sabriel or Fablehaven. And then, after trying to write a few paragraphs and feeling like it sounded really awkward (because it was really awkward) I'd give up. And so, while I looked favorable upon writing a novel, I never expected to actually do it. 
(My wife and I in Colorado—we're high up, but the peak is much higher)

Then a funny thing happened . . . I made a few new years resolutions, almost as a joke, and completed them fairly early in the year—so I decided to add writing a book to the list. And I did it. As I neared the novels completion, I expected to feel like some mountain climber, euphoric at my accomplishment. But when I pulled myself over that final ledge and typed the last sentence, I realized something . . . I was nowhere near the top. I was in the foothills, looking at a looming mountain range in the distance. It was an odd feeling, finishing my first book. I realized that I loved writing, but I also realized I needed to do a lot more of it in order to be a good writer.

Fourth Musing: You need to write because you like to write . . .
This one is said often, so I'll keep it brief. Whenever I first tried to write a book, I did it because I thought it'd be cool to be a famous published author. And whenever I wrote for that reason, I never got far or enjoyed it very much. It wasn't until I decided to not worry about any recognition, and to write purely for the sake of writing, that it became easy to write. You might get a book published if you write for the sake of getting published, but I assure you, you are going to have a miserable time. 

(I told you I'd add pics to make this worth your while!)

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm sure I will think of some other musings as time goes on. If you have anything to ask or add, feel free to comment!