Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Writing Inspiration, Whether You Are Nanowrimo-ing or Not

The Nanowrimo folks are sending out some pretty good "pep talks" to those who are officially registered as participants. 

The one that came today is from Naomi Novik.  I love her ten words a day tip:

The single most important technique for making progress is to write ten words.  Doesn’t matter if you’re badly stuck, or your day is completely jam-packed, or you’re away from your computer–carry a small paper notebook and write a sentence of description while you’re standing in line at the coffee shop.  I think of this as baiting the hook.  Even if you have a few days in a row where nothing comes except those ten words, I find that as long as you have to think about the novel enough to write ten words, the chances are that more will come.

I am constantly telling students/people/those who want to write that it is a very good thing to write something, anything on a daily basis.  Write a few notes.  Read over the last lines of your novel or short story or essay and ponder it as you drive the car pool.  Carry paper and pencil with you always and jot down thoughts.  The idea is to keep the flow going, keep up the momentum.  Then when you do have time for a longer writing session, the words will be there, ready to roll.   I agree with Naomi.  If you think about the novel enough to write down a few notes about it, you’ll probably decide that vacuuming can wait.  And so can Grey’s Anatomy. 

Here’s my mantra:  nothing is more important than working on the novel.  Nothing.  I mean that.  I don’t care if you’re hungry or in love or the baby is crying.  Okay, I’ll give you that last one.

My favorite Nano tip so far though comes from Tom Robbins.  Tom Robbins could burp and I’d think he was brilliant.  Years and years ago, Esquire ran an essay of his in which he talked about living in the northwest.  At the end of it, he wrote this:  "People ask me who I write for, I tell them I write for the rain."

Now I may have that quote wrong, but that’s how I remember it.  I’ve actually looked for the exact quote over the years, with no luck.  (So, Tom, if you’re reading this, let me know if I got it right, will ya?)  I don’t know why, but that line has stuck with me for years.

But I digress.  Tom wrote a fabulous pep talk for Nanowrimo and I went to the website to see if they were posting the pep talks there so you could read it in its entirety, but apparently they are not.  So here are the best parts:

When you sit down to write that novel of yours the first thing you might want to do is toss a handful of powdered napalm over your shoulder–so as to dispense with any and all of your old writing teachers, the ones whose ghosts surely will be hovering there, saying such things as, "Adverbs should never be…", or "A novel is supposed to convey…", et cetera.  Enough!  Ye literary bureaucrats, vamoose!

Brief aside: that is going to be my new mantra:  Ye literary bureaucrats, vamoose!  More of Tom:

Rules such as "Write what you know," and "Show, don’t tell," while doubtlessly grounded in good sense, can be ignored with impunity by any novelist nimble enough to get away with it.  There is in fact, only one rule in writing fiction:  whatever works, works.

Ah, but how can I know if it’s working?  The truth is, you can’t always know (I nearly burned my first novel a dozen times, and it’s still in print after 35 years).  You just have to sense it, feel it, trust it.  It’s intuitive, and that peculiar brand of intuition is a gift from the gods.  Obviously, most people have received a different package altogether, but until you undo the ribbons you can never be sure.

So, altogether now:

Ye literary bureaucrats, vamoose!  Because….There is nothing more important than writing the novel!

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