Deborah Jackson

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Reluctant Muse and NaNoWriMo

Everyone’s so excited about NaNoWriMo. Are you ready? Gear up and start writing.

Uh huh. Right.

Why am I not excited? Because I know that I will not write a book in a month. I didn’t say I couldn’t. I could. And it would be exciting, full of the energy of slap-dash writing, bursting at the seams with stream-of-consciousness chatter. In other words, it would be atrocious and I’d have to completely re-write it.

I know there’s all kinds of help out there. I read on an agent’s blog about plot formulas and (of course) a great e-book you can buy that will guide you through the process. How wonderful. And your plot will be . . . formulaic.

Almost anyone can write a book in a month. Almost no one can write a “good” book in a month. Ask how many “years” the prize winners took. Plain Kate, one of my all time favourites, took about six years to inject all the nuances of character, to place the perfect word on the page, to refine plot, etc. What about all the preliminary research? What about character development? And pacing?

Do your original words sing off the page, or do they cough and sputter? Do they need a tune-up after writing?

I imagine you might be able to do it, and it might be a brilliant book. I’d have to bow at your feet, because you’re a genius.

I know, I know. Sometimes it’s just a method of forcing that reluctant muse to work. Banishing the procrastinator.

But my muse can’t be forced. It has to be coaxed. My ideas only develop over time and a few sleepless nights, and I know I’m not alone. If I force myself to write on a topic I have no passion for, even for a blog, it needs to be tossed or rewritten. That’s why I’m writing this blog. Because I passionately feel that NaNoWriMo is a waste of time.

Say you have this seed of an idea. Let it grow, nourish it over time with research that will send up more shoots, process it through your creative soul, develop memorable characters who will make that idea flourish, then write and focus on scenes, chapters, expansion. After the approximate time for a full length novel first draft, three or four months minimum, let it sit and stew for another three months. Then look it over, rework, revise, flesh it out or strip it down. Do this again and again until it shines from the inside out.

Or flush it out of your system in a month. You can do it. But you might just want to keep on flushing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Standing OUT in the Crowd

You’re a small voice in a stadium full of people, screaming to be heard. Screaming doesn’t work, because everybody is screaming.

Buy my book, look at my product, pay attention to me!

If you get in my face, to deliver your message, I will turn away. It’s annoying. And the screaming is like the constant drone of machinery, chipping away at my cochlea, numbing me to any message you might deliver.

If you have something meaningful to say, through your book, or you have a quality product to sell, I first have to trust you. If you can build a relationship with me, give me something of value first, or talk quietly, but with substance, I will look your way. And if you show me you’re a real human being, I’ll like you even more.

I recently joined a writing community of teens and teen writers, because I’ve written a teen book and I would like opinions from readers and writers of the same genre. It’s a critiquing community of which there are thousands of members. How do you get a reciprocal trade of opinions when there is so much choice? I noticed that one of the “Top Critics” has flitted around from manuscript to manuscript, giving each a cursory glance—one chapter—writing a critique and getting points for evaluation. She’s spread herself thinly through the community and thus gained the top billing. However, I don’t think she’s well liked, because her critiques lack genuine involvement or care in developing these young writers.

Comments like: “She doesn’t really look at the pitches.” Or her own comments: “Thank goodness, an adult to talk to . . .” I won’t continue. Suffice it to say, she writes for teens, but I wonder if she cares for teens.

I know I can’t spread myself so thinly. Nor do I want to. I joined the community, I picked manuscripts that were along the lines with what I write or offered my advice when requested. I became deeply involved with three manuscripts because that’s all I’m capable of managing at one time, and I’d rather go deep than wide. I like to make connections with readers, with children, with teens—that’s why I write for them. But I know a surface connection in a critiquing capacity is useless to me and to the teen writer.

The same goes for Twitter. You can’t bond with 14,000,000 people. You can only talk at them. But if I connect with a few people deeply, and I like what they have to say, then I’ll probably like what they have to sell—at least I’ll have a look at it. And I’m sure they’ll do the same for me.

An iron link between two people is stronger than a thousand tiny threads.