It’s been a while since I posted anything but News up in here. That’s going to change. Since actions are better than words, it’s changing now.
Writing is an odd sort of activity. It’s creative, but unlike a lot of creative activities, there isn’t a great deal to show for it when you’re done. OK, that’s not quite true. You may have a full notebook or a typed manuscript, but compare that to a sculptor or painter or even a singer. A full length novel is somewhere around 80,000 words long, give or take. An experienced author who can touch type can write a first draft at around 1000 words an hour. That means working 40 hours a week, an author will take a full two weeks to write a novel.
At any rate, compare that manuscript to two weeks of work from a sculptor. They’re probably going to have something fairly impressive for that amount of work. A human-sized whatsit at least. For the painter? Something equally large or intricate. For the singer or musician? They’ll have an album. Less visually impressive, but harder to look away from if they start singing it. Now, at this point some of you who sculpt or paint or sing are going to start going on about research, or prep time. No dice, fellas. I was only including the actual hands-on-the-keyboard time for the writer. They have to do research too. I’m assuming it varies more from artist to artist than it does from art form to art form, honestly.
Now, the final results for the novelist are less visually impressive. What really stinks is that the intermediate results are even less comparitively impressive than the final ones. The sculptor will have half a sculpture, or a half-carved whatsit if he’s carving marble or whatnot. The painter will have a half full canvas, or a background with details to add. The singer will have half his tracks recorded, and be able to sing them to you whenever you ask. Whenever someone looks in on another type of artist, even if the artist subsequently chases them out of the room with an implement of their craft, they get to see something ‘half done’. They get a look at a work in progress. With a writer, on the other hand, you see no ‘progress’ unless they allow you to read over their shoulder, and even then it’s not likely to be impressive. Even a musician can play you the hook of the piece to show you what they’re working on. A writer? Unless they’ve hit a particularly good line, one which doesn’t require setup? Not so much. Also, our creative tools are less viscerally threatening. I mean, who hits someone with a laptop? Seriously.
Now, that means we’re easier to interrupt. As noted on CNN, interruptions are Death to creative work. You don’t get any ‘work’ done until you’re ‘in the groove’.
That’s where NaNo comes in. Whether you think of it as a blissful month of creation or a sink of depravity designed to produce malodorous hunks of unpublishable dreck, one thing you cannot deny is that participating makes you write. You cannot complete NaNo without sitting down on a regular basis and churning out words. Those words may be good, they may be awful, but they are on the page. They’re no longer locked in the skull. Now, if you’ve honed your Craft (Hi Leanne!), the words are more likely to be good, because they’re doing what you want them to do. If you haven’t honed your Craft (Hint: it’s a good discussion on Art and Craft), it’s an opportunity to do so.
However, if you’ve hit the point where people are waiting for your finished product, either by dint of being published or by dint of having beta readers with guns (Hi Ian! Ordinal WILL be finished at some point, I promise), NaNo does something else, especially if your time is fragmented. It forces you to make your creative juices flow. No longer is ‘I wasn’t feeling it’ an option. You learn to find your zone, NOW. Fragmentary time becomes valuable again.
Now, will that time ever become as valuable as long stretches of uninterrupted time? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know in… (*looks at watch*) about sixteen years, at which point I’ll be able to compare summer writing time (without kids in the house) with school year writing time (without kids in the house). ‘Cause right now, I have, as you may have guessed, kids in the house. Small ones. Who come up with “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Read to me! Play with me! Me! ME! ME!ME!ME!ME!ME!” Which is adorable, and important, but not terribly good for creating…
Unless you’ve done NaNo with the idea of having something ready for December submissions. At which point the five minutes when they’re eating a Fruity Oaty Bar (‘makes a man out of a mouse’ or the twenty minutes when the Purple Menace has them mesmerized, or the thirty seconds when they’re running in circles screaming for no particular reason can become that all important substance to a writer, especially a NaNo writer: WORDS.
Oh. And yeah. Lisa. I’ll be sending you the sequel to Fae Eye as soon as the Beta Readers are done with it. ‘Cause I know you need more Paranormal Romance with Quantum Chromodynamics references.