alynnidalar wrote: ↑06 Nov 2020 16:38
Salmoneus wrote: ↑27 Oct 2020 17:29
Time isn't as much of an issue with writing as people think.
If you type at the average of 40wpm - and if you're writing novels and conversing on forums, you're probably someone who types much, much faster than that societal average (60wpm doesn't seem unreasonable or uncommon for fluent young computer-users) - and you write for only 30 minutes a day, that's already 36,000 words in a month. Or reorganise that time: 15 minutes a day on weekdays, then an hour and a quarter on Saturday and an hour on Sunday, that's still 36,000 words. Admittedly, that's short of a full novel (I think you'd probably have to be over 50k to be a full novel), but it's a very big start (and nanowrimo, aiui, is no longer strictly about only writing novels anyway). Of course, that leaves aside planning and editing, but the point of nanowrimo is getting paper to page without worrying too much about those things (at the time).
You may have missed the point a bit here. It's not a matter of typing speed
, it's a matter of writing
. I can type quite quickly--over 100 WPM without many errors--but that doesn't mean I can write
at 100 WPM.
With respect, I think you may have missed the point a bit here. I'm sure this is my fault in failing to make myself clear.
My point is that many people are deterred from nanowrimo - from writing in general - because they fear they don't have the time, because writing takes so long. Yet in reality, writing itself is, or can be, very quick. The great majority of the time taken in composing fiction is not spent writing at all - if it were, we'd all end up writing a lot more. The time taken in composing is largely spent on planning and editing. I'd suspect that probably around three-quarters of time spent composing at the desk is actually spent on planning (or procrastination) rather than actually writing.
And this is important because planning and editing are much more flexible than writing itself is. First, when people think about writing, they tend to think about needing a very specific context: at your desk, with your computer/typewriter/pad-of-paper/etc in front of you, with no distractions, for a block of time. This sort of "rigid" time is indeed difficult to find much of, for most people. But planning (let's leave editing aside...) is much more flexible. It doesn't need to be done in a block, you don't need pen and ink in front of you, to a considerable extent you can often even do it while you do other things. If you intend to write in the evening, you can do much of the requisite planning during the day - on trains, out for walks, eating lunch, to stave off sleep in boring meetings, and so on. I don't mean to suggest that it's sustainable to always have entirely 'pure' writing sessions, with no planning at all - after all, you're likely to be planning the next bit even while you're physicallywriting the current bit - but it doesn't have to be: because so much
of the time spent "writing" is actually spent thinking, and so much of that time can be, as it were, 'extracted' and performed elsewhen, the amount of time you need to find for traditional "writing" - desk, comfy chair, quill pen and parchment, Beethoven, etc - can be much less than people tend to assume. You can, of course, do all your thinking at your Remington... but you don't have to. And that's a luxury that many people don't have.
So if you make it a point each day to make sure that, before you sit down at your desktop, you've already got a good idea of what you're going to write - what the scene is, what's going to happen in what order, where the scene has to end, ideally some lynchpin moments (lines of dialogues, descriptions of events, authorial comments, etc) already in your head, and so forth, then you can often find you can actually write much more than you would be able to do if you were having to make it up as you went along.
[To use a musical analogy: you can be Beethoven, or you can be Mozart. Beethoven, while of course he had ideas all the time (many composers carried notebooks to jot down passing concepts), did a great deal of composing at the piano, with quill in hand. It was arduous: he was always going back and forward, writing things down out of order as they came to him, desparately scratching things out and writing over the top of what he'd written, the point of illegibility. Mozart, on the other hand, did as much composition as he could in his head, finding moments throughout his day, so that when it came to actually writing his music down, he could do so extremely quickly (famously he would often pull all-nighters, finishing his scores the morning of performance).]
What people tend to find as well is that a considerable amount of the 'thinking' they do while writing is not actually productive at all - it's tangents and what-ifs, procrastinations and reflections, all inevitable of course in any case, but much more extensive and time-consuming when 'licensed' by the activity of contemplating at your keyboard - one's mind, given the freedom to ponder, tends to like to take its time, and go by scenic routes. Nothing encourages procrastination like deciding how to fill a blank sheet of paper. If you cut down on the time spent fruitfully pondering, you often also cut down on the time spent fruitlessly pondering.
And secondly, it's important to recognise that while writing is rigid not just in how its done, but also how much is done - 100 words is 100 words and no avoiding it - the amount of planning you do is entirely according to taste and exigency. If composition were really just a matter of writing, then people would be right to be discouraged from it: if they don't have the time, they don't have the time. But because composition is really primarily a matter of planning, and how much planning you do is entirely up to you, it becomes less a matter of "do I, or don't I, have time to write this novel?", and more a matter of "how perfect do I want my novel to be?"
Now of course, it's perfectly legitimate to want a novel to be absolutely perfect, and to agonise over every single decision. Perhaps it takes a long weekend to chart out the scenes in a chapter. Perhaps you want to sit and stare at a wall for ten minutes going over every word in a key speech in your head again and again before putting pen to paper. Perhaps, as the Oscar said, you take all morning inserting a comma, and all afternoon removing it again.
But that's not what nanowrimo was originally intended for. After all, an artificial quota and deadline is a poor way to bring about perfection in any case. The spirit of nanowrimo is less about, in my opinion, the twenty-time novelist polishing their latest oeuvre, and more about the first-time novelist who feels intimidated by the prospect, who isn't sure that they can write a novel at all - just like Backstroke. It's about putting words on the page. I'd suggest that if you've written at least 13 novels, and have daily Zoom conferences dedicated to your writing, you're not really representative of the skills or needs of the average would-be novelist!
So it's important to realise that if writing seems intimidating, you have the power, to a considerable extent, to choose to make it less so. You don't have to be a perfectionist.
Simply typing is easy. You can type whatever word comes into your head, copy some text (as you do in typing tests), etc. but the actual act of thinking through a story, constructing plot and character arcs, fleshing out description and setting on the page, all the thousands of decisions about how people act and what they say and what they do... that's what takes the time. It's all well and good to go, "ah, well, if you pants NaNoWriMo you don't need to worry about those things", but in my experience--thirteen years of pantsing NaNoWriMo--that's not at all true. You may not worry about those things ahead of time, but you (the general "you"--perhaps not you specifically, Salmoneus) do have to think about them as you go. If you simply wrote down whatever words or sentences came into your head, you wouldn't come out of November with a story, it'd just be a jumble of images and bits of dialogue and long irrelevant tangents.
I think that's rather overstating the case (as well as being a strawman). The average person is relatively coherent in their thinking - if you trust your own coherence, you're very unlikely to end up with "a jumble of images and bits of dialogue and long irrelevant tangents" - after all, why would you write those things? You don't have to spend three minutes of every four deliberating carefully in order to think to yourself: "let's not write a page or two about that cabbage, it's not really pertinant". Probably most of us, after all, have plenty of experience writing quickly and on topic. Whether it's for work, or a forum post, or an essay for school or university - why would our brains suddenly stop working properly and quickly when it came to writing fiction? After all, look at all the posts written on this board - I don't imagine that many of them required much pause for thought (certainly mine involve virtually no thought at all!), and yet almost all of them avoid disjointed jumbles of images and tangents. (although your mileage may vary - suddenly I'm embarrassed by how incoherent you must find this post (written extemporaneously), and all my others - I'm terribly sorry!)
[EDIT: to clarify this strawman a little better: I find it galling, and a little odd, to have my earlier post characterised as a call for jumbled images written off the top of one's head without the least care or attention... given that that post contained over two thousand words (!) discussing planning and plotting.
[of course, if your novel does turn out a jumble of images and tangents... well, it was good enough for Mr Sterne, wasn't it?)
There's this huge mythologisation that people do about composing fiction: it's laborious, it's unique, it's undescribable and mystical. But really, it's just about writing what comes into your head - having first, of course, decided what direction your head should be travelling. It's really no different from any other sort of writing, or formal speaking. It's important that people not be intimidated by it. When they see that they can do it - when they've written thirteen novels - then
, maybe, is the time for perfectionism.
Now sure, I'm a terrible writer (I don't write enough, for a start). But there have been many successful, and even some great, novelists who have written fluently. Barbara Cartland once wrote 23 novels in one year. She wrote (in her case dictated) around two thousand words an hour. And of course it is fair to say that she is not the greatest artist in the history of literature. Many novelists I'm sure would look down on her. I imagine you'd see yourself as a more accomplished writer than her, and there's nothing wrong with that. Personally, I'd much rather be Wilde than be Barbara Cartland.
But given than I'm neither, maybe it's better to go part of the way toward being Cartland - which is largely a matter of discipline, available in theory to all of us - before trying to be Wilde (which would require actual talent).
I'd think of it this way: we have 11 months of the year to get everything exactly right. What's wrong with having one month of the year just to see what we're capable of when we don't
hold ourselves back with worry and self-doubt? After all, if, in hindsight, we hate what we've written, we can always edit it - or use the other 11 months to rewrite it. But if we don't write anything in the first place, when we never even find out what we can write.
Again, I think maybe your view on this is a little jaded. Sure, from your perspective it must seem ridiculous that we struggle to write - you have so much experience. From your perspective, I imagine it is terribly gauche that we might be willing to just try to write what we can, rather than getting everything right - that we'd be willing to risk the "jumble of images" and "irrelevent tangents" that inexperience might bring us. But from my perspective, taking time to decide which novel of mine is best is a luxury I don't have. The question of how to write the best possible novel is rather irrelevant to me - the question of how to write a novel at all is far more pressing!
So yeah, I could have told Backstroke, "you're right, writing is so time-consuming, there's no way you'll succeed, it's hopeless, give up now!"... but would that really have helped anyone? After all, you don't have to read what they write, or what I write!
And okay, maybe some people are fine with that. But most people I've met who do NaNoWriMo want to come out of it with a novel, or at least something approaching one, and that means a little more care must be taken in what words you put on the page.
As I say, I'm not sure you appreciate the extent to which taking more care in writing is a luxury that many of us for a variety of reasons - temporal or psychological - can't afford. Of course I respect that writing a more careful novel is important to you - congratulations on being in that position! If I were looking back on my dozen novels, I imagine I too would theorise about, comparing one novel with another, how much care I really "must" put into my novels in future if I want to be satisfied by them. But that is not currently my position, and I don't think it's Backstroke's position either. Please allow us some time to catch up to you in your sunfilled uplands up there!
Last night I attended a 2-hour Zoom writing session with my local NaNo group, in which I probably spent a solid 80-90 minute actively attepting to write. In that time, I wrote 1977 words. Less than 25 WPM for the time in which I was actively writing, 16 WPM for the total session.
Incidentally, I guess this is just a disheartening comparison for those of us who aren't successful writers. I literally cannot imagine this. The last thing I would do when trying to buckle down and write is try to do it at the same time as a video-conferencing phonecall! But I suppose that just goes to show I don't have a writerly mentality...
For a more general statistic: in my group we like to do 20-minute word sprints, where you just put your head down and do nothing but write for 20 minutes straight. The average writer, not pushing themselves too hard, will likely get about 500 words. Pushing myself, I can break 900; I don't know if I've ever hit 1000 though I've tried. The fastest writers in our group can get around 1200. That's "only" 60 WPM, but let me tell you right now, it is not easy. And it's not a sustainable speed, either! I get done with a sprint, and my brain is out of gas and needs time to recharge.
Personally, I would find this counterproductive - I find it's more productive to write a paragraph or two at a time, and then take a few moments to check that I'm on track...
So, "but you can type at 40 WPM so you can write 1200 words no problem in a half-hour!" is actually not representative of most real-world writers... in my experience.
My point is that there's a big difference between what you CAN write, and what you would LIKE to write. Just because you might be less than perfectly comfortable writing 1200 words in half an hour doesn't mean you can't do it.
I think you're a more organised person than me, so I imagine this reference won't be relevant to you... but if you've ever left a three-thousand-word university essay to the last possible moment, in the early hours of the morning before it has to be handed in, then yeah, you soon discover that writing 1200 words in half an hour is indeed suddenly no problem! Of course, whether you should
write your essay that quickly is another question, but nonetheless it's useful to remember than you can
... because then it becomes not a question of what's possible and what's impossible - which is outside of your command - but of what you choose to do, and what you choose to prioritise, which is something you can decide for yourself.
[I'd like to say: "and having procrastinated for a while writing this, I can get back to my own writing now!"... but actually, I need to get back to doing some editing I promised someone I'd do. Damnit...]