Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Juunin Toiro

Here in Japan, there's a saying 十人十色 (juunin, toiro) - ten men, ten colours. Ten people will act in ten different ways.

But there are a few- as there always are- in the writer community who believe that their way is the only way. Not just for them but for everybody. You absolute HAVE to plot your novel. You CAN'T plot your novel or it will be stilted. You MUST write every day, no matter what. You SHOULDN'T write if you really don't feel up to it.

For me, there are few rules that can be applied universally in writing. But recently, I've been thinking about one...

I've  done and won Nanowrimo every year since 2008. I owe a lot to Nano. I completed my 1st first draft in Nano. And my 2nd. And my 3rd. And I'm hoping to complete my 4th by the middle of next week. In addition to which, I "became a writer" because of Nano. I've always written, and I've always had the "I may write a novel some day" spirit. But only after Nano, did I make the decision that I was going to produce books.

Also, I kind of owe this blog to nano. It was during Nano that someone pointed me to Nathan Bransford's blog. That lead me to Natalie and Marsha. And as I ran around the blogosphere commenting and interacting, I felt like I needed a space of my own. At the time, I had a Japan blog, a philosophy blog and a weight loss blog, but I needed a space where my writer friends would want to come. And so Points of Claire-ification happened.

Even though I love Nano, some time after last Nano, I realised that if I was to be a serious writer, I couldn't very well turn out first drafts only in November. So I made a couple (unsuccessful) attempts at novelling early this year. I'm working on it. Add to that the fact that Nano is only for first drafts. I mean there is an Edit month as well, but I believe that's in December, when I'm out of energy from Nano, and trying to sew back together my shambles of a social life. Plus editing productivity is a lot harder to measure.

And every year, Nano gets worse for me. My first year, I wrote pretty consistently clocking the required 1667 words almost every day. The second year, I took a week hiatus, and had to play catchup. Last year I wrote 30,000 words in the final week. This year's Nano has been painful. I started the book I planned to write, an tsunami-earthquake YA, and I just couldn't get it to stick. Then I started another novel, about a girl hell-bent on losing her virginity, and that wasn't working either. Finally, I started the novel I'm working on now- possibly around a week late. Once again, it's the final week, and I've got 30,000 words to go.

Thinking about how much Nano has done for me, and how well it used to work, I wonder how some writers can swear one path is the best for everyone. I'm just one writer, and the path that used to be perfect for me, is now barely semi-okay.

There are very few universal rules in writing, but one of them is this:

Take the path that works for you.

And, if that path stops working, find a new one.



Sophia Richardson said...

Yes to this, Claire. Such a good point that there's not only way to write: no two people are alike, and a routine can become stale.

Kate Scott said...

I think your nano experience is more common than most people want to admit. As people write, or do anything really, their skill level changes and the way they go about what their doing changes too. It's good that what worked for you four years ago might not be the best thing for you now, it means you're growing as a writer.

Kai said...

I enjoyed this post :)

To complete the 50,000 word nano goal is very impressive. I've never actually attempted nano, and with my job and a 7 month old daughter I can't imagine doing it too soon. I was awestruck when I read a comment by a writer on Twitter this morning (#amwriting) who had already completed over 90,000 words during just three weeks of nano.

I've read around the blogosphere about two different kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers (or something like that).
I think within these two types are the following types:
1. those who just write and get it onto the page, then mostly edit later or after the first draft is completed.
2. those who take a lot of time working on sentences and paragraphs and heavily edit as they go (theoretically leaving less to edit later or upon completion)

On a personal note, I started my first novel back in June this year and currently sit at about 12,000 words. It is a first draft so to speak, but unlike first drafts that people write in nano, my WiP has been thoroughly edited and tweaked. Scenes, characters, sub-plots, etc have been added, changed and so on.

I guess I belong to that second set of writers who cannot progress past a word/sentence/paragraph/chapter until it feels just right. It can be both frustrating and rewarding.

How do you write? And have you changed?

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