So you can read my books

Monday, November 4, 2013


{Courtesy of the genius of Leonora Roy}
Sometimes we get stuck in our writing.  To bull forward in the race for word quotas does not help.
When you have made a wrong turn, going faster only gets you more lost.
You must stop and reflect where you took that wrong turn in your prose. 
As with cars caught in muddy ruts:
sometimes to go forward, you must go back, get on firm ground again, and then go forward.
All this takes time.  But that is all right.  The magic takes time to steep in your mind, deepening in its meaning and value.
Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling one brushstroke at a time.  That is how you will write a great novel.
"During my self-proclaimed UnRaNoWriMo,
I'm going to just write.
Every day. For however long / short I desire.
I want to love the project at the end of November, not fear it.
I want something I can handle when it comes time for revisions.
I don't want to end up with a blah, blah, blah, just-get-er-done disaster like I have in the past two years
Don't get me wrong, I admire all the NaNo'ers out there! You go, writers!
It's just not my cup of tea. Or coffee."

I, too, admire the persistence of the writers in NaNo.  I just feel sad at seeing them waste a month while learning bad writing habits.

Sometimes I get a bullying or "In-Crowd" vibe from some NaNo-ers that email me or whose blogs I wander upon.

"You're not doing NaNo?  Why ever not?  Everybody's doing it.  Well, those of us who are serious about writing that is."

I get it.  It's fun to participate in something that a lot of kindred spirits are doing.  I just see a lot of bad habits being ingrained into unsuspecting friends.

But I am not going to be bullied or shamed into participating into what I see as a reinforcement of bad writing patterns.

So I have instituted the "NaNo! WE WON'T GO!" movement to coincide with Candilynn Fite's UNDER THE RADAR MONTH.

Something those of you for whom NaNo is not your "cup of tea" can join and feel good about your decision not to NaNo.

I already have been told:

"Oh, but it's a good thing to get pushed into daily writing."
Really?  Anybody have to direct you to the dinner table?  No, because hunger did it for you.  If you don't have that hunger driving you to write, you're not a writer.
"Oh, but it's great to compare with friends on my progress."
That's what FACEBOOK is for.  Writing is a lonely quest to put your story in the best prose, best telling of it as you can.
"I do the NaNo events so that I can get a first draft."
A first draft of what? 
A hastily conceived, hurriedly slapped together caricature of a story idea that might actually have been a classic if you gave it reasoned, careful thought?  To carefully mull over the plot twists and the plot foreshadowings takes time.  It takes time to distill a cliched idea into a surprising turn of one on its ear.
"I want to put my writing first for a month."
Life is a harsh mistress.  It hits you out of left field with a sucker punch when you can least afford it.  Make it a habit to write daily, even if you have to get up an hour early or stay up 30 minutes later.  (The extra half hour in the morning is to wake up!)
"The goal is to have the experience of trying. It's a creative exercise that can teach you a lot about what you're capable of. The forums provide you help and guidance."
Really?  All right.  Try on your own.  What you accomplish by yourself means more.  Ever see anything done by committee that swelled your heart with pride? 
There are great text books out there by authors who have written bestsellers for years not just pro's at telling you how to write one.
 Never doubt that I am your friend. 
And friends will tell you the truth even if it is not a popular one. 
Stay the course with your dream, my friends. 
Sail straight and true,
with your eye on the distant shores
of touching and evocative prose.


  1. Loved your post.
    I'm new to this NaNo writing thing.
    I understand some people excel under pressure, I'm not one of them. I write and blog for therapeutic reasons. So I will just sit back and enjoy the ride wherever she takes me.
    (just between you and me I don't need to be directed to the table to eat I need to be pushed away!)

  2. I can find the dinner table. And I will eat whatever is there. Please don't let it be cardboard, as i might not know the difference.
    I've done it because I'm a lazy-ass writer. I need to motivation. Otherwise, I'd just go play my guitar for a couple hours...

  3. David:
    Same here about the eating table! I write because the stories churn inside my head bumping against one another!

    I have pressure enough as a rare blood courier!

    Any man that can visit 100 blogs daily has the discipline to write a page a day -- in a year that is a novel!! :-)

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post, Roland. Funny and honest! Thank you so much for the motivation!

  5. This is a real feel good post. I'm comfortable with setting my own goals. November with Thanksgiving stuck in there isn't a great month for me to try and write huge amounts each day. I'm glad it works for some people, but I doubt I would ever want to join.

  6. I actually like NaNo, but some years it just isn't at a good time for me. But I also don't like people being snooty about something. If "I don't feel like doing NaNo" isn't a good enough answer for someone...well, rest assured, it will end badly for them.

  7. I always love NaNo, and it works for me, but I see your point - it doesn't work for everyone. :)

    NaNo-style writing is how I write anyway, even when NaNo isn't going on. And then I revise ... and hone ... later.

  8. Ellie:
    I'm happy you found something neat in my post. :-)

    Cramming huge amounts of words into each day of a holiday month seems poor planning, doesn't it?

    J E:
    I can believe you would set them straight. :-) I just would like to see less emphasis on word amounts and more on writing some each day with a clear picture of the horizon we're heading to.

    I cannot write thousands of words a day daily for a month and create anything of quality.

    Writing daily works for me. Roger Zalazny, award winning S.F. author, would write 5 pages in the morning, mull them over during the day, then weed them down to 3 pages.

    But what works for you is what path you must follow. :-)

  9. Roland, this post made me smile! Thanks!

    Never once did NaNo cross my mind... I can seldom go past a page if it doesn't "sound" just right. That's not that good either, is it? :-)

    You mentioned Michelangelo. That reminds of the movie "The Agony and the Ecstasy." Every time the Pope came to ask "When will you make an end?" Michelangelo would answer "When I'm finished." :-)

  10. To each his own Roland. Writing a great novel doesn't happen to too many people in their lifetime, especially not in modern times. Life is more rushed - there's so many other things dragging on us - we don't have patrons or financial support unless we make it for ourselves.

    But I see NaNo bashing as a waste of time. As is defending NaNo. Leave people alone to do what works for them. There's enough negativity out there without adding to it.

    There are anti-bloghop bloggers too. Against them? Easy! Don't criticise people who run/participate in bloghops - just avoid them.

    Anyway, I'm a HUGE fan of NaNo. I totally get people not being so. But that's everyone's right - why offend/hurt/denigrate people who find it a very positive writing experience?

    Write on, brother!


  11. Vesper:
    I was thinking of the same movie, same scenes as well. :-)

    Dean Koontz edits each page as he writes it, polishing it until it is finished in his mind before moving on to the next one -- so you are in good company.

    I gathered from your comment that you were a HUGE fan of NaNo. I am not bashing NaNo: I am merely pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes -- never popular.

    Everyone must follow the path that seems right to them. There were "Pal Companies" created in England during WWI -- done with the thought that those who enlist together should fight together. It seemed right at the time. The young populations of entire villages were destroyed due to that "seemingly" correct route.

    Because great novels do not happen often does not mean we should not strive to write one with each book we write.

    I support myself as a rare blood courier: hard, long, and nearly constant hours. Yet, I try to write a classic with each book I write -- yes,I know, so far I have failed, but I keep trying.

    To write daily the best prose you can fit in the time life allots you is the way to a good novel. One page a day produces a novel in a year -- too slow in today's mindset I know.

    We live in the microwave culture: instant coffee, instant frozen dinners, instant love and marriage proposals on reality TV, twitter conversations instead of letters, and instant novels.

    I am not bashing. I just grieve over poor writing habits being lauded.

    I've seen the anti-bloghops posts, too. And I see their point: when everyone is doing one, they lose their effectiveness -- as with the ocean of cover reveals.

    I simply think the fun of crafting a novel you love is lost in the hurried race to word crunch.

    I wish all my friends, NaNo Nanettes or Under The Radar writers, the very best of fun in creating a novel that sings for them.

  12. Thanks for this post, Roland.

    "I want to put my writing first for a month."

    That bit, in particular, is where I found myself. I've done NaNo once before, in 2009. I finished, too - but the "novel" I ended up with was, not to put too fine a point on it - a piece of shit. A 1,666 word-a-day-gee-gosh-I-did-my-words-and-they're-fine piece of shit.

    As I write this, I've signed up for this current year's iteration, but it was mostly done with the hopes that I could find that habit again, of daily writing. I do feel that drive you talk about, but have been in dire need of a push to get past the procrastination hump. Life can (and frequently does) leave me too drained to get to the page on some days, but then there's the times I find myself mindlessly clicking through Facebook games instead of getting back to the task at hand. The funny thing is, before NaNo, I'd started getting back to daily writing in the hopes of making the cut in a writing contest. The piece I started ended up running away, and became well over length. Even now, I've co-opted that story as the basis of my "nano" novel, and I'm having way too much fun picking over those initial paragraphs, and trying to get the story to flow, rather than plowing ahead to "make my words".

    All that blather to say - I think you're on to something, and I'm probably not going to be much in the way of a "nano-buddy" this month. I've got writing to do.

  13. Chris:
    Thanks so much. I feel heard. :-)

    I wanted to give permission to my cyber-friends to just write each day with no thought of quantity but only striving for quality.

    As a weary rare blood courier, I, like you, finally manage to sit before my laptop bleary-eyed and muddle-headed.

    I try to think of some new sentence or paragraph during the course of my day, perhaps even jotting the words down on a sheet of paper.

    I take those words and type them. I usually find a better way of saying them as I type. Sometimes that primes the pump. Sometimes I end up with only a page -- but a page I am proud of. Often it triggers a bit of research that would make my novel sparkle.

    My writing is ever with me, but sometimes I do not get that page done. So I try to get up a few minutes earlier and type it.

    If you sit down and only type one sentence, you have written something for that day. You have kept up the discipline.

    I sometimes get caught up in a new book I am reading, but it still plants seeds -- so I know how tempting those FB games can be for you.

    My current WIP is set in Egypt in 1890 during an archaelogical dig with Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Nokola Tesla, and my cowboy hero of other novels. It makes me smile as I write the exchanges between Wilde and Twain. They take time to be true to character, so I am not burning up the word counter!!

    But like you, I am getting into the flow of the story.

    I wish you luck with your new novel. If you need a sounding board, I am here.

    We both have writing to do! :-)

  14. Another non-NANO-er here. I'm working on two WIPs this month and submitting a scifi. I work better on my own for the draft. I'm tracking my word count to keep me writing, rather than planning to excess.

    I did a similar experiment last year and had the bones of a story which became a novella.

  15. Yep, I'm right there with you. Whenever I try to 'jump on the band wagon', I always get my foot caught in the spokes! Rather than writing, I think I'm going to use the month to research my next novel so when I do sit down to write I won't be spinning my wheels.

    Thanks for all of your validating words (actually, you often post ideas I relate to--I'm just more of a lurker these days, rather than a commenter).

  16. Wow. Profound post. I enjoyed every last word. I also can identify with them. I've produced the crappiest of drafts the past two years. So much so, I can't even begin to think about revising them, much less polishing. Why do it again? was the question I asked myself when considering NaNo a third time around. Sure, I can whip out a draft, but if I'm afraid to go back through because of facing the disaster, why? It's not worth my time or effort. I'd rather sit and just write.

    My hopes is to have a nice sized chunk of a novel when November ends, but hopefully, it's something I can continue to finish, redraft, and produce a workable manuscript. One my agent will love, not run away, screaming.

    Thanks for the shout-out, Roland. It seems great minds think alike. :) Best to you and your writing endeavors this month!

  17. D.G.:
    Hello, Non-NaNo'er. :-) I've worked on 2 WIP's before. It's fun. Actually, the idea for HOUSE OF LIFE came to me while writing BADLANDS. I wish you the very best of success with your novels this month.

    Hello, lurker. :-) Glad you decided to say HI this time. I get lonely, sometimes feeling as if I am singing to an empty house.

    I get the "Band Wagon" feel to NaNo, too. Mark Twain wrote: "When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reconsider your position!"

    I had fun researching both HER BONES ARE IN THE BADLANDS and DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE. Happy researching. And do try to say HI more often, hear? :-)

    Yes, just think those two unusable drafts took TWO months out of your life that you will never get back. We live as if life will go on and on -- but it will not. Life has a shelf life -- an unknown one.

    Each day could be our last so use it as wisely as possible.

    My hope, like yours, is to have a well-polished portion of my novel completed by November's end -- hopefully one that will keep the readers on the edges of their seats.

    I was glad to signpost everyone to your post since it voiced what I was feeling. I wish you fun and a great prose all through November.

  18. I guess I look at NaNo the same way I do exercise. If you say you'll make a big effort three days a week, guaranteed something will happen on those three days and you won't exercise. On the other hand, if you say you will exercise everyday, then who cares if you miss a day or two here and there. That's my take.

    Just write.

  19. Wendy:
    With you, NaNo is like exercise. With me, NaNo is like a month-long diet. Folks force themselves into word-vomiting for 30 days, and then they are wiped out. No discipline set up -- just collapse.

    Like you, I believe in just writing each and every day -- even if it is no more than a sentence. If you do that, that sentence will at least become a paragraph, and usually the paragraph becomes a half page to a page. In a year's time, you have a novel. Not bad and consistent without collapse at the end of the month~! :-)

  20. Honestly, I think of NaNoWriMo as something that helps motivate people who maybe can't quite set aside time to write a novel the rest of the year. People who maybe have dreamed of it for years but have never quite done it. Those of us who have written novels...sure, it's great if NaNoWriMo prompts us to complete an entire book in a month. But it really isn't necessary. You just have to do what's best for you.

  21. Stephanie:
    I understand dreamers. But in this world there are dreamers and then there are do-er's.

    Vomiting out words per day consumes pages but does it create a good novel? Writing finely distilled words each and every day produces a good novel that it worth losing however much time it takes to create.

    I do not believe NaNo is best for anyone as it teaches and reinforces faulty writing habits.

    But each of us must choose the path that seems best for us. Parents of grown children know the ache of seeing them stride confidently down a path that will end badly.

    Thanks for visiting, caring enough to comment. Come again. :-)

  22. I guess some people need that... have never figured it out. I don't. You've stated some of the reasons why.

  23. My relationship with NaNoWriMo is complicated. Some years I do it, most years I don't. This is my third time around with it, although I've only really ever done it by the rules one time (my first).

    That first year, I produced a draft with very good bones and terrible text. I spent the next couple of years revising it slowly, in the edges of my life around job, family, etc. You know how that goes.

    Eventually I had pruned that original story down into something well worth reading. It was just far too short to be a novel. Also, based on beta reader reaction, not really a stand-alone story, even if I were to release it as a novelette.

    I realized this in October about two years ago. (I'm definitely a slow and steady sort of writer, and will never be a high-volume one.)

    Fortunately, I also had some good ideas for a second storyline that would resonate well with the book. I spent October of that year doing Randy Ingermansonn's Snowflake Method to develop the plot for my second storyline. Then spent NaNoWriMo writing the first 50K words of it. I didn't sign up officially for NaNo because I felt I was breaking too many rules.

    But I did accomplish 50K words, and thanks to the structure established by the Snowflake method, they were some of my best first draft writing words ever. So I've been pretty happy about that.

    Since I finished up that storyline, my focus has been on editing. I've got 50K of the words of this now 178K novel to the point where I'd be content to allow someone else to read them. But I still have to evaluate/edit/prune the rest.

    It's dark out, and my energy is beginning to flag. I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, not to write a new book, but as a NaNoWriMo rebel. I've committed to completing 50 hours of editing on my current book this month. It won't be enough to get the whole thing done. That's ok.

    Right now, the accountability that very public commitment requires is quite helpful. But only because I am able to shape NaNo to better suit what I actually need as a writer right now.

    I don't know if I will ever do NaNoWriMo by the original rules again. It simply took too much effort to recover that first storyline. If I were to use NaNo to jumpstart a new book, it would be to work on something I had already scoped out pretty carefully or to commit to spending a certain amount of time editing a WIP, like I'm doing this year.

    I do enjoy the sense of community that NaNo offers.