I hit the 20,000 word mark on my novel this past week. This seems like a big milestone to me. I’m not sure why, but it does. To celebrate both this milestone and our country’s birthday, I took the last three days off from writing. Actually, I didn’t have much of a choice. We were camping on this holiday weekend with no cell service, no electricity, no computer . . . you get the picture.
I did actually bring a clipboard with some paper, but all I managed to write on it was the beginning of a character sketch and a list of stuff I needed to get to restock the camper.
Instead of focusing on writing, I played with my family. And I read.
I finished Jeannette Walls’ lovely memoir The Glass Castle. I also spent time in my lounge chair with some of my writing craft books. As I began writing fiction in earnest at the beginning of this year, I read and read and read craft books, but I finally got to the point that I needed to actually practice what I was reading. I needed to write my stories.
Now that I’ve made a bit of progress, I’m finding that as I read the craft books I’m thinking about and approaching the information in a more practical way. I have characters and plots to think about which has given me a different perspective on the information.
The first time I read the writing books, they gave me the confidence and knowledge to start writing fiction. Now, I feel like they’re giving me the information and confidence to keep going. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says “the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts” (22). Mine is now well under way, and I’ve decided that its okay if its crap. Writing is hard, I’ve figured out that much. But I’ve also figured out that I love it, and I’ll stick with it.
I just need to keep going, keep plugging away, even when life is busy and crazy and I decide every single one of my ideas is lame and the whole story sucks. The only way to get this book done and this story out is one (possibly shitty) word at a time. The great part is, as the writer, I have the freedom to go back and change it all if I need to. Perhaps that’s the best part of writing.
Next stop . . . completed character sketches and 50,000 words.