Remember English class in High School? When your teacher would give you an assignment of writing a short story and caution you to hand in your Brainstorming because you would lose marks if you didn't? I do. I remember because I never handed in my brainstorming. This would probably have something to do with the fact that I never did my brainstorming. Just sat down and wrote, then handed it in. I'd get it back every single time with red words scrawled across about how next time I needed to hand in my brainstorming. I didn't care. I hated doing it. I though it was a waste of my time.
I LOVE brainstorming. I do it all the time. Right now, in fact, I have no less than three notebooks on my desk with brainstorming from three different projects scrawled inside. Why am I telling you this? So that you can understand that as I'm writing my newest novel, I have come to realize that writing, like anything else you do, is a learning process.
I'm not certain why I always thought that writers knew exactly what they were doing the first time they put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it may be) but I did. I was so certain of this, in fact, that before November I never let myself finish anything I started simply because I assumed it was utter crap. (Don't get me wrong, it was utter crap. I recently had the utter horror...uh...absolute pleasure...of reading a story I wrote about five years ago. Let's just say I'm sorry that anyone ever read it...)
I also found I was getting stuck on decision. (I should tell you, I'm actually quite indecisive. It took me about two months to make up my mind to start a blog. Why? Who knows. But here we are.)
Anyway, my point is that I have discovered the answer to both of these walls that I had built up in my head. Just as I learned how important brainstorming can be (especially when a character I did not plan shows up in my books and somehow ends up being important, but I don't know why), I've learned how to get over these other hurdles.
Plotting, something I barely gave any thought to before, has now become what I spend a lot of time doing now. Each of my books is meticulously planned out before I start writing. (I'd like to point out that I say meticulous, but what I mean is, I think I know what's going to happen and then I actually write it and it all goes to hell...just saying, but don't expect your characters or your stories to go exactly to plan. It wont.) I do this so that I don't have to stop in the middle of my writing groove to make a vital decision that I should have known about before I started writing.
And word mongering. Aah, word mongering (For all you twitterites out there, that's the hashtag #wordmongering) A fantastic group of people that get together via twitter every hour on the hour to write as much as we can for half an hour than compare word counts. It's fantastic.
For those of you that worry about us turning writing into a competition, let me reassure you now. While we are competitive, it is a friend competition. While we compare and one person may get bragging rights, the point is to support each other, not knock each other down. Also, some of us...not saying who...just some of us apparently respond to competition. Don't knock it 'till you try it!
Word mongering allows me to turn off my brain (not too far off, I am still writing after all. Just enough to make my inner editor shut up) enough to get the words on the page. And, despite my one time belief of first drafts being perfect, I have come to embrace the very idea behind NaNoWriMo: You can edit crap. You can't edit nothing. Getting those words on the page is the first step. You can fix your mistakes later.