It’s been great realising the most important things that I’ve learned so far when it comes to writing fiction. But there is one belief I have that I wish to challenge, and one skill I’ve always meant to improve.
The belief is something that I just came to accept about my process: I can only write in the mornings. The skill is handwriting: something that I’ve always planned to incorporate into my writing but just haven’t got around to it. Well, in November I’m going to look at changing these two things.
Production Cometh in the Morning.
Writing first thing in the morning is a theme amongst a lot of authors that have spoken about their daily ritual. The process of getting up at 5am, working for four hours and then having the rest of the day to do other things seems pretty common.
I’ll admit that I feel the same. After lunch time my willpower is drained, and usually that’s when I’ll slow down or do something else, like photography. Or play Xbox. Here’s the problem though: I wasn’t born with the drive to write in the morning. Being able to get up early and write for a few hours every day – that’s a habit that I’ve built up over time. I didn’t just switch it on one day; it took months of working a little more every week.
When I first started the habit, sitting down to write for half an hour took a lot of willpower. Now it takes a lot of willpower to take a break (if it’s before 11am). My point is, after lunch, I feel the same about afternoon writing as I used to about morning writing. For some reason I’ve accepted it because it’s something other people do. And for a while now I’ve wanted to change that.
I like the idea of working into the night. Of sustaining myself on coffee at 1 a.m. while I finish a chapter or frantically edit a scene. So in November, I’m going to push the limits of my working day, and build a habit of extending it out to the whole day.
I have a love/hate relationship with hand writing. I love the idea of having pages of hand written notes to pore over, but my own hand written notes tend to look terrible. I know I cannot write a draft by hand. The faster I write, the worse my hand writing becomes. I have to slow myself down and pay attention to the way I am forming the letters so I can actually read them again later. However, for planning and plotting, this is ideal.
I’ve been wanting to make hand-writing a part of my process for a while, but have struggled to find a way that works for me. The question has always been ‘do I use just one notebook, or have a different notebook for each project?’ I’ve gone the one notebook route so far. I label the top of the page with whether it’s a blog post or a character sketch or a story idea. However, the only way you can sort through this is chronologically. For example, I can’t really see all of my blog post ideas in one place.
The solution presented itself to me when I was sitting on the bus the other day. A high-school kid got on board clutching the obvious answer: a binder! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. So I’ve got myself a binder for November, with little dividers and everything, and I’ll be making all initial outlines and character sketches in that, away from the computer.
I know. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about writing a novel, not cramming as much self development into the month as possible. For me, being under a stressful deadline is the perfect time to find out what works and what doesn’t. I won’t have time for anything that doesn’t feel natural or comfortable. A month is a very short time to put a novel together. If having that stress isn’t enough to get me working into the night then I’ll know for sure I’m a morning person. And if I don’t feel I’m getting any benefit from hand-writing notes, then I won’t have time to just do it because I like idea of it.
I have one more big change coming, too – I’ll cover that tomorrow.