Category Archives: Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Writing at Your Own Pace

Reviving this post for NaNo 2014 — For those of you joining through the Lovely NaNo Link-up, hosted by The Novelista!

The Novelista

Be sure to check out more NaNo-related posts this month through the NaNo category under “The Season”!


 

I’m not sure why I continue to be surprised at how much of what I’ve come to realize about life in general also applies to more specific parts of my life, for instance, my writing.  In this case it’s the matter of moving at my own pace, not holding to other peoples schedules.

I got a glimpse of a microcosm of this while I was participating in some NaNoWriMo Word Sprints.  A short sprint could see a word-count disparity that I don’t think is always simply explained by a difference in typing speeds.

Sure, there are distractions, there are those who did not type the full time, and those who are typing speed-demons.  But it also has to do with the vastly different ways that people approach their writing.  For some it is a matter of dumping the ideas on the page, writing absolutely horrible writing if that’s what it takes, to just get it down, and then sorting it out and editing it later.  For others every single word is meticulously planned from the first appearance on the page, with a lot of editing happening before the words can be written.  And yet others fall somewhere in between.

Just the same, some can write a novel in a matter of months, from first idea to finished project, while others will take years for the process.  Some want to make sure that everything is plotted out, others are happy to just see where the characters and the story may lead.

And it can cause hesitation when you’re faced with someone who takes a different approach than you.  At least, it does for me.  I find myself wondering if perhaps I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe I would be [more successful] [a better writer] [more productive] if I wrote differently.

The truth,  though, is that there is no right or wrong way to write.  Sure, there are suggestions, “rules” for writing.  And for every rule there’s an excellent example of a time to break it.  Every writer has their own method, their own way to reach their goals… and their own understanding of those goals.

Most important of all, there is no right or wrong way to write — there’s only what works for you.  I was taught to write every day, but I know a writer (a bestseller at that!) who only writes on weekends.

– Tamora Pierce

What are some of the “writer-expectations” that you have heard and embraced, or rejected?  Where are places that you’ve found yourself setting your own pace?

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 This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  

It is a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
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What if I get it wrong?

Among the many titles I like to give myself (quietly and mostly when thinking to myself) is “historian.”  History has been a passion of mine for my entire life.  As a kid I would create projects that focused on history.  Throughout school, if I were given the chance, I would turn my assignments towards historical topics.  I read historical-fiction, and historical non-fiction like mad.  I ended up with a BA in history, and an MA in religion — with a thesis focused on a historical figure.  And I have now been accepted in another graduate program, where I will pursue an MA in History (starting this fall).  I dream that, someday, I’ll have a Doctorate in History, that I’ll work in a museum or as a history professor, or perhaps a historical consultant or… the possibilities seem nearly endless.

Hey!  Look!  A historic marker... can we stop a minute?
Hey! Look! A historic marker… can we stop a minute?

I have driven my family crazy with requests to pull over for every roadside “this event happened here” sign that I could find, and have structured entire vacations around historical topics.  Sure, I have my favorite eras, locations and people, but to be honest I have yet to find a historical person, place, or thing, that I haven’t been happy to explore.

And I love to research.  To find more resources that I can use, more information.  I peruse bibliographies for fun, and love detailed footnotes that lead me to all sorts of other, passingly related, topics.  I have the ability to lose hours wandering through the internet, or library, or whatever resource may be on hand, gathering links, or titles, or anything else to “look into later.”

But I have this fear that has kept me from writing historical fiction.  Even though there are some stories that I think may belong as historical fiction, and others that I would like to write, I find myself stalling out in the face of the possibility that I will get it wrong.  That I will not be able to rid myself of modern slang and modern sensibilities enough to write a character and scenario that is realistic.  That I will make a mistake and, gasp, someone will call me on it.

It’s horrifying.  Seriously.
And I know that I have to get past this block if I want to write historical fiction.  I have to be willing to make mistakes – and trust that I can ask other researchers to help check my work.  I’m doing that for a number of projects.  I’ve been asking a friend who actually knows about sword-fighting to help me with research/resources so I can write a more realistic sword-fighting scene in my fantasy novel (not that it would be hard to get better than the current text: “she watched as he [does something that makes it clear that he’s no good at sword fighting, yup]…”), for example.

And perhaps this is reflective of a larger fear.  I hate to say it’s a fear of being wrong (because I know that I am wrong at times, just how often probably depends highly on who you ask), but perhaps a fear of being unable to capture a sense of true authenticity.  I would hate to pour so much time and energy into something and then have it pulled apart because the facts didn’t add up.  I worry about this enough when I am writing in a fantasy world and dealing with something I don’t know a lot about (like earlier-mentioned sword fighting, or farming, or royal court etiquette).  And in fantasy stories I can always have an escape-route… argue that this is the way it works in this land.

But in history, I can’t do that.  What happens if I include some turn-of-phrase that wouldn’t have been in use?  Or have someone referring to something that hadn’t happened yet?  Or I just can’t stay true to the historical sensibilities?

And how do I go about overcoming this fear?  That is the real question.  How do I find a way to be willing to make mistakes, to trust that my editing process (and my research) will help me keep from making (at least glaring) errors?  And how do I let go of the sense of needing to be right and not making a mistake?

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 This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group -- I am very much looking forward to being a part of this community!