…if you won’t tell me how to write mine.
This isn’t a big deal, honestly, but it does get on my nerves, especially at this time of year. Enough that I want to kvetch about it.
What am I talking about? The way authors are constantly bombarded with advice about how to write a book. And by how, I don’t mean from a craft perspective, i.e., grammar, characterization, plot, etc. I mean the actual WAY we go about writing books. And this drives me crazy because, I’m telling you right now, there’s no ONE right way to write a book.
Maybe there’s a right way for each individual author, but even then, I’m not so sure. I know I don’t always approach each and every book in the same exact way. For example, sometimes I plot a little more, sometimes I pants a little more, but in the final analysis, I’m neither a true plotter nor a true pantser, so the fact that I lean more in one direction or the other depending on the book shouldn’t be all that surprising.
But the eternal divide between plotters and pantsers isn’t what’s getting on my nerves right now. It’s NaNoWriMo and the unspoken implication that comes with it that the Nano way is the best way to write a book.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with NaNo for those who can/do write that way. And by “that way,” I mean those who are of the Nora Roberts “I can’t fix a blank page” school of writing. Those who adhere to this method are those who are able to, in their own words, “write crap” and worry about fixing it later. These are people who like to rewrite, revise, and edit a manuscript multiple times until it’s as close to perfect as possible.
In case you haven’t guessed, this isn’t the way I write a book. In fact, I’m physically incapable of it. I write very slowly and with my internal editor always firmly on my shoulder. I’ve tried to banish that bitch more times than I care to consider, and it never works. She’s always there and she won’t LET me write anything I know to be crap. (This doesn’t mean I never write crap; it’s just that I don’t always recognize it as crap until later!) And because I am a relentlessly linear writer, I can’t gain speed by skipping a “difficult spot” in a story and writing something that comes later. I have to know what came before to write what comes next, so my only option is to pick my way painfully through the current scene. I also tend to do my revisions as I go, often reading through the last few scenes or chapters (or even the entire manuscript) before adding new material. All of this means that I really don’t have a first draft, or even a second or third draft. I have the final manuscript and by the time I write “The End,” it’s pretty much done.
I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there who write like me, but I suspect they keep quiet about it because, honestly, there is a strong core of belief out there that says this isn’t the “right” way. The “rules” of writing, according to common wisdom, are that you have to set aside your internal editor to write, that you should write the whole book before you can rewrite/revise, that “writing is revising”, that every manuscript should be revised and revised and then revised again. If that’s not your method, it can feel a little like everyone’s telling you that you’re not a “real” writer.
So, to all those who don’t write the NaNo way–I’m with you. And whatever works for you is the ONLY right way to write YOUR book.