We all have incredible stories knocking around our heads. They often bounce around up there for years, slowly fermenting into world-shattering epics, terror-inducing horror shows, and enduring tales of human connection. For most people, that’s where they stay, never leaving the shadowy recesses of their minds. But wouldn’t it be great if you turned that fantastic idea in to a tangible creation you could actually hold in your hands?
Well, you know the old proverb,
‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’
Next month is fast approaching, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. It’s a simple enough idea: write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. That’s a lot of words you’re probably saying, and you’re not wrong. But it is achievable if you just keep writing one simple word after another. I took part last year, and while I found the forums to be less than helpful, I did get access to all sorts of fancy stat tracking, gamified achievements, as well as pep talks from published authors.
If inspiration from your favourite authors sounds like your cup of tea, you can check out the archive of pep talks. Here’s a sample of one of my favourites from Neil Gaiman.
‘You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
‘A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.’
If you have any writing aspirations then you owe it to yourself to give it the old college try at least once. And if you do decide to take the dive? Good luck, it’s worth it.
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Neil Gaiman photo by Kyle Cassidy licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.