On Writing

I’ve spent a lot of time in the writer self-help aisle. I have a few books about the art sitting on or near my desk – tomes detailing organization techniques, brainstorming methods, ways to unleash your inner artist, and just about everything else. Now, it isn’t that those things aren’t important, it’s just that they take a long time to get to the same damned message:

The only way to start writing is to start writing.

At the end of October I briefly considered entering into NaNoWriMo just to see if I could do it. Of course, as is often the case, November came and I had mostly forgotten about the contest, much like every other year. Besides, it wasn’t like I had any ideas in mind, right? I was empty. And there was school, too. And work writing! I have so much of that to do! I don’t have time for this, man. I’m busy. Stack of work. Oh, and that test I have to study for…

I then saw a post on Facebook by an old professor of mine – something about a writing contest. Neat! I clicked on over, read through the rules, and then immediately signed up, apparently without consulting myself.

While not quite NaNoWriMo, it was 40,000 words in one month.

Once it sunk in, I consciously decided that I had to go through with it. There really wasn’t an option. That silly Facebook post was a promise to myself. After all, do I fancy myself a writer or just someone who likes to occasionally write?

I had no story, no characters, no ideas whatsoever. But hell, I couldn’t just back out. And so, with absolutely no direction I opened up word and stared at a blank page for about thirty minutes, with zero inspiration hitting me. As is standard procrastination procedure, I fired up WinAmp, hit shuffle, then slammed “next” a few dozen times.

I ended up landing on this.

Thoughts rushed to my head. A mercenary. A bad one. Has to be a tough woman. Has to want some progress in her life. Other characters – two names immediately sprung to mind. A few thousand words later, I had my hook. I read it over once (the only time I re-read anything during the whole experience, hilariously enough), and then went on my way.

Thirty days later, here I am with 40k words and change. As a man of the short story, it is by far the longest thing I’ve ever written – and it isn’t even done yet. Sure, I hit the milestone that I needed to win the contest, but that’s hardly the point. The contest was just a seed, the tiny kick in the ass that I needed to begin the long, painstaking process of tossing myself against the page.

After a short break, my goal is to finish the first draft of this novel by the end of this month. After that, I’ll re-read it and begin the editing process. Then maybe I’ll even let someone read it. Or a few people.

Or… well, this road goes to some scary places, doesn’t it?

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