by Meg Mims
With NaNoWriMo on the doorstep (two weeks! Only two weeks away, augh), writers are chewing nails about how in the world they can possibly get 50,000 words written in one month. Some are lucky to write 5,000 words in that time period. Some can barely manage 500.
I’m not going to discuss whether NaNoWriMo is crazy, or whether it works (kudos to those writes able to turn off that pesky internal editor), or even if you can actually get a decent first draft—or an absolute mess of a draft. The point is to try. And I do. I usually fail miserably, coming up with between 1,000 and 10,000 words. I also fail at writing challenges, where writers set the clock and challenge each other to rack up words.
A clock doesn’t serve me well, except as my profile picture.
Neither does a calendar. Oh, I’ve given myself deadlines and usually meet them—for an hour or a day, a week, even a month. But I know it’s my goal and not imposed by someone else. In fact, I have come up with my own version of NaNoWriMo for every month of the year. I call it MegMoWriSlo. Meg’s Monthly Write Slow—also called the “Ocean Wave” method.
I spend two weeks (or three) hammering out characters, backgrounds, pictures, settings and even a loose outline (or a detailed one.) Once I get started with the inciting incident, I hum along until things start to bog down—and then rethink my outline, or fill it out in more detail, or find a key missing point. This can take place in a day or a week. But every time I open the file, I tend to read what I’ve gotten down for that scene or chapter before starting fresh. I write on, sometimes going back to add a new detail I’ve just thought up, or planting a clue, or foreshadowing. And then I return to where I stopped. By the time I finish, I end up with more of a second draft that still needs work. Some people, and my critique partner is one of them, are “racers” who churn out the entire first draft as a whole without ever going back.
Every writer has to come up with their own creative process. It’s okay. I also spend one evening painting (which helps me use a different part of the brain’s right side) but feeds on the creativity. So does sitting in church listening to the sermon—I’m far more aware of my current work’s theme and how a scripture might apply, or a character might act from something I hear. Listening to movie soundtracks while I write is another way to open up channels. And while Lord of the Rings may have nothing to do with historical westerns, it works for me. If I do all of these things each week, I’m a lot less slow!
Don’t be afraid to explore and find your own way to maximize your creative output. Whether it’s standing on your head for twenty minutes before sitting down at the keyboard, or knitting, or going on a shopping spree (a killer on the budget, though!), or exercising. As musician Isaac Hayes once sang, “Do Your Thing.” You gotta write!
So go to it, your own way.
Meg Mims is an author, artist and amateur photographer. She writes historical mysteries and romantic suspense, and is a staff writer for RE/MAX Platinum in Michigan and for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan tourist on-line magazine. Meg had an article about a lighthouse keeper published this past summer in The Chronicle, the Historical Society of Michigan magazine. Meg's first novel, Double Crossing was also published this summer by Astraea Press.