How long does it take to write a book?

I was asked this question by a non-writer this week, and it took me one very long email to answer it. It’s a complicated question!

By Rich Keele, Horus Sundials (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rich Keele, Horus Sundials (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

First, what do we mean by writing a book? Are we wanting to know how long it takes to write the first draft? Or how long it takes from imagination to published book? There’s a lot of research involved, and a lot of thinking time where the writer isn’t doing anything but sitting and thinking, too.

Then there’s the variant between writers: some type fast, some slow. Some are full-time and can spend 8 hours a day, others only get an hour a week to spend on their craft. Some can crank out a book in 4 weeks, while others take decades.

For a published author, if they produce one book every year, they are considered prolific. I know there are a lot of fabulous authors out there who take longer or shorter, but let’s use this as a base line, since we have to sstart somewhere.

Assuming that a professional writer does not have another job and relies solely on writing, they are probably spending 40 hours a week on their craft. With 52 weeks in the year, that’s about 2,080 hours. But then you have to subtract holidays, sick days, and vacation days. If we assume it’s like any regular 9-5 job with paid time off, that’s probably around 2 weeks of vacation, 10 holidays, and 10 sick days (because if I were self-employed, I’d be tempted to take the maximum number of holidays and sick days off…we can call them writer’s block days if we want). That brings the total number of hours in a year down to 1,840.

There are a lot of other things to consider, though. For instance, novels written on a typewriter or by hand take longer. Those written on a computer are faster. Someone who can type faster might be able to finish quicker. Also, depending on what kind of software the writer uses, it could be a cumbersome experience or a slick and easy one.

But….there’s also the time it takes to revise a novel. Just writing it is not the end. There are second, third, and sometimes fourth drafts that have to be written. (In my case, sixth drafts. *headdesk*) And they all have to be edited, proofread, and edited again. Then there’s the time it takes the publisher to make a cover for it, typeset it, build a promotional program for it, negotiate with booksellers to display it in their stores, and finally, print and distribute it. From the time an author signs a contract with a publishing company to the time their book is first available in bookstores, six months to a year and a half could have passed.

So, let’s say that those 1,840 hours are not all spent on just writing the first draft. Let’s take a stab in the dark and estimate about half of them are spent writing, the other half are spent editing, proofreading, rewriting, researching, and submitting to publishers. That leaves us with roughly 920 hours of writing time.

Some writers hire personal assistants to do menial work for them, like the editing, proofreading, and submitting to publishers, so that they can have more time to write. Which does make it take significantly less time.

Also, someone who is writing a book for the first time is going to be much slower at it than someone who has ten bestsellers under their belt. So, the first novel might take 3 years of working full time at it, but the second might take only half that time, and the third, a half of that.

The person who asked me this question said he read an article that it takes 450 hours to write a book. To which I say, good for that writer! But that’s hardly every writer.

As you gear up for NaNoWriMo this year, keep these things in mind. You already know you’re going to try and write one draft in a month. How much time do you think it will take you to research and outline before then (assuming outlines work for you)? How much time will you need afterward to edit your magnificent but sprawling beast of a manuscript?

If you are consistently spending x hours per week on writing, put a number to how many hours you think it will take each step in the writing process. (And if you’re able to do this, can I just say good for you, because you are regularly writing? Congratulations!)

Then do the math to figure out how long it will take you to finish your book at your current rate. It’s a fun little exercise, especially when you don’t want to write and need a distraction. Perhaps you will see that you need to put in more time per week to finish what you started. Or maybe it will motivate you to make more use of the writing time you do have.

The important thing is that it puts your writing in perspective. It changes your thinking from “someday I’ll reach the end, or maybe it will go on forever” to “I know approximately when I will be done if I keep at it, and every time  I don’t put off writing, I’m rewarding myself by bringing that finish line one day closer”.

3 Reasons to Read Everyday

We all know we “should” read, that there’s some ambiguous benefit to come from it. But not knowing what that benefit is makes it easy to put off. To rationalize away.

By Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Story By Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I used to not read very much until one day I decided I was going to put that unread monkey on my back to rest for good. I rummaged around to find the books on my long list of “should reads” and started going through them. I realized that there are lots of benefits to reading. (I also realized that if a book is on your list because you “should” read it, maybe it shouldn’t be there.)
Assuming that if you’re still reading this, you are not as big a reader as you’d like to be, I’ll try to keep this concise so there’s not as much to read (and so you’ll have a few more minutes to go grab the nearest book and dig in).
  1. There are BENEFITS to reading:
    1. Improved memory
    2. Improved creative problem solving
    3. Improved tranquility
    4. More knowledge
    5. Bigger vocabulary
    6. Stress reduction
    7. Free or very inexpensive entertainment
    8. Improved imagination
    9. And the big one for writers: Provides a must-have grasp of the craft of writing. (You’re a writer, aren’t you? Don’t you want to study your craft like every other profession does, by looking at what other people do? Honestly, if you call yourself a writer and you don’t read at least two good books a year, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.)
  2. Reading is NOT HARD:
    1. Hear me out. It might seem like a big, boring task that’s going to take a lot of time. The truth is, it’s not that hard, or long, or boring. You choose to read as much or as long as you like. Neither do you have to finish a book if you don’t like it. Try this: Get a book and set a timer for 5 minutes, then read. That’s doable, right? Congratulations! You just read something. Now repeat until you finish a book.
  3. Reading RESTORES your belief in writing.
    1. For a long time I languished as a writer and felt like I just didn’t have enough gas to write what my stories needed. I had begun to get cynical and started asking myself why anyone would ever read my writing when they’re so busy all the time. I also started asking why anyone needed to read my story. Aren’t there enough books out there that people can pick up? Does the world really need my story?
    2. I had gotten out of touch with what it feels like to be a reader. When I picked up reading in seriousness, I remembered what it was like to get lost in a book, what a reader feels when they just have to turn the page, stay up late to finish an exciting story, or strain against spoiling the ending for their friends. Once I remembered what that was like, I remembered there are millions upon millions of people in this world who LOVE to read, who are clamoring for stories. And that yes, the world does need my story. (More on this in my next post.) Reading restored my belief that my writing can make a difference.

 

 

Feel free to share what you’re reading in comments. If you need extra motivation or want to connect with a community of readers, check out the site www.goodreads.com. It’s like Facebook for readers.

You have to actually write

Color By NumberAfter my last post about my writing methods, and hoping it would be helpful for some writer out there, I read Patricia Wrede’s post about advance planning. You can read it here. Go on. I’ll wait.

She has a very good point. All outlining and preparatory systems have a weakness: they don’t help with the actual writing. After doing all the right steps, I might know that the next scene has to involve a visit to an insane asylum, but the outline won’t tell me the angle of attack.

Unless I use the phase drafting method. At the end of her post, Wrede gives an example of what kind of outline would have been useful if she had known ahead of time what was going to end up in the book. And it looks very similar to the description of a phase. It all depends on how micro-managed you want your outline to be. When I got to the point of writing about the insane asylum in one of my older novels, the phase “A young William walks through the door of an insane asylum. Memories of the past. Loathing of the place. Memories of visiting his grandfather and being bored.” helped with my plan of attack. I had already decided the best way to write this scene was from William’s point of view and to focus on his feelings.

But I still like what Wrede said about most outlining methods. They don’t write the book for you. You still have to get your butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and type.You still have to make decisions about whether to describe the asylum as creepy, or to go for disgusting instead. These are the types of decisions an outline will not help you make no matter how fine-tuned it is (because at some point, it stops being an outline and is the actual story itself).

A few thoughts inspired Wrede’s post that I think are important:

  • Sometimes beautiful books are written with no advance planning at all. I’d say experiment before starting a big outlining project and just write. It probably won’t grow into a stellar full-length novel, in which case, all you’ve done is create more material to put into your phase draft. But it definitely won’t hurt and you may find that something beautiful is flowing out of you without even trying.
  • The initial decisions the rest of the book is built on are often arbitrary. You can change them at will, which is nice. But better to do that before writing the whole thing so you have less to change. This is the whole point of the snowflake: if the story is broken and needs to be fixed, at least you’ve only put a few weeks into it and not months. Outlining, for me, is all about spotting problems early.
  • Don’t assume that an outline’s job is to make the writing process easier. It’s supposed to make it better (though sometimes it does make it easier). I work just as hard at writing when I have an outline as I do without one. It just means the difference between pouring my heart and soul into choosing better words or using energy to keep a meandering plot from getting out of hand.
  • The main purpose of an outline is to tell me what absolutely has to happen in a scene. Like a checklist to make sure I hit all the important things that move the plot along. If used that way, it doesn’t get in the way of my freedom to experiment with different angles of attack.

Hope that all made sense. Now go on. Get out of here and write. The world needs your story!

Writing Methods

 

I’ve been asked recently about my method of writing by a few beginning novelists. Instead of scrambling to answer them with verbal pointers they won’t remember, here’s a run down of what I’ve discovered works for me.* They’re a far cry from Rita Skeeter’s magic quill, but hopefully these will make your life easier.

I start with the Snowflake Method, which you can read about here. The big idea is to create design documents behind your story, just like you would for a big work project. How might one keep track of all these design documents? I use Scrivener, and have created a template in Scrivener just for the Snowflake method. If you would like to use it, I’ll happily share it with you. Just leave a comment or email me.

One tweak I made to the Snowflake method is I replaced Step 8 with the Phase Drafting method. You can read about that here. The big idea is to divide your story up into phases: single sentences that represent about 200-400 words worth of your story. That way, when it comes time to write, you will have a one sentence prompt telling you what’s next to keep you on track. This is the most fun part of outlining for me.

A recent addition to my writing method has included Aeon Timeline. This neat little tool not only syncs with Scrivener, but helps me lay out my Phase Draft in a way that lets me see if there are any problems. I was hesitant at first to adopt a timeline into my process. It seemed like an unnecessary but fun feature that let me bask in the glow of my own ideas but didn’t help me to write better. But after constructing my first thorough timeline, I realized my dates were off. Some of my characters weren’t born until after their scenes, and others couldn’t possibly be the ages I set for them in the book.

Getting Aeon Timeline to sync with Scrivener was a complicated ordeal and I’m still working out the kinks. So I’ve put together a list of things I wish I had known before I started. You can see that at the bottom of this post.

Once all my outlining is done {which usually takes 2-3 months}, my phases are ready to go, and I’ve fixed any problems with my timeline, I begin writing the first draft. I usually jump on board the next NaNoWriMo event to do this. NaNoWriMo is a large group of writers coming together online to encourage each other to write a book in one month. That may seem daunting, but it’s doable, especially if you’ve done your homework and created all your design documents. The biggest event is in November and is the most heavily attended. But since I don’t always want to wait for November to write my first draft, I sometimes do Camp NaNoWriMo, which is the same thing, just held during April and July.

Printing off my Phase Drafts and putting Scrivener into full screen mode really helps. I found a neat tutorial here for setting your full screen writing mode to a serene backdrop that eliminates all distractions on the screen. I use a black and white background image with mostly white in the writing area and fade the paper away completely so it looks like I’m typing on the image itself.

After my first draft is done, I take time away from it. I didn’t used to. It’s all too tempting to look at your shiny new draft and think “I want to keep going.” But your edits will be far more productive if you give yourself at least two weeks if not a whole month off. You could start snow flaking your next story while you wait if you have itchy fingers.

For my second draft, I create a separate folder in Scrivener marked “second draft” and give it a different colored icon in the binder. Then I use split screen mode to see the first draft on the right and the second, blank draft on the left. This lets me reference the first draft quickly while writing the second draft. Some people print off their first draft and mark corrections with a pen. But I know there will be so many changes to my first draft that I couldn’t possibly mark them all. The second draft is not for correcting spelling or grammar. Those are small things. I try to look at the big picture and deal with plot holes, which scenes should be deleted, if a character’s actions/words fit their personality, etc.

For my third draft, I’m usually ready to nit-pick so I print it off, double spaced and single sided, and get out my red pen. This is usually a fun part because I try to read it as if I’m reading a finished book for pleasure. It helps me take a step back from being a writer and see things through the eyes of my audience. I don’t think too hard about each sentence or word choice and only mark the things that jump out at me. Sometimes I skip doing this step with the first ten pages, because I usually end up doing a separate edit focused on only them. Beginnings are very important. I might spend twice as much time on the first ten pages as I do on the rest of the story, and probably as much thought goes into the first sentence.

After the third draft, I might experiment with different scenes, changing things here and there. I may try on a different voice, different tense or point of view for a scene. This is about the point where I start to realize that my story has come into its own and is ready for beta readers. When I find myself tinkering without actually changing much, it’s time to move on. If I have dedicated beta readers willing to read the entire book, I will send it to them and let them wail on its weaknesses to their hearts content. But if I know they’re not likely to sit down and read an entire book, I will pick out the places I’m not sure about and ask specific questions {Are this character’s actions realistic? Do the first five pages make you want to read more? Are there any annoying words I use too much?} I give my beta readers a short time to get back to me, then weigh their feedback and decide what needs to be changed.

My fourth draft is usually the final one. For this, I export everything from the third draft to Microsoft Word, then do a find for all my crutch words {the bad habits I have in writing}. I struggle with passive voice a lot, so I search for any instance of “was, that, have to” and see if I can replace them with anything better. I incorporate my Beta Reader’s feedback, then call it ready to submit for publication.

Submission is an entirely different process which I hope to detail in a future post. Hint: it’s fun and draws from the very first step of the Snowflake method as the basis for forming a pitch.

Aeon Scriv Tree

Aeon <3 Scrivener

Aeon Timeline & Scrivener Syncing Tips

  • Remember that Aeon syncs with Scrivener, not the other way around.You need to be in Aeon to run a Sync.
  • Arcs, labels, & entities you wish to apply must be created in Aeon before you can expect it to sync.
  • You must save a blank Aeon timeline for Scrivener to sync to before it will sync.
  • Setting up a sync is a lot of work initially, but it eventually smooths out and builds on itself.
  • Try not to be annoyed by the constant need to make tiny corrections.
  • Pay attention to the sync screen that lists which changes it will make. Make sure you are ok with what it’s planning to do.
  • Your timeline can get as fine-tuned as you want. Don’t be afraid to include too much detail. You can hide, sort, or filter it later.
  • Expect to need to change dates. The whole point of a timeline is to help you see discrepancies.
  • You must create entities twice, once in each program. They don’t sync over.
  • In the Scrivener Binder, under Manuscript, each folder counts as an event, as does documents in those folders. Make sure you mark which ones you want to sync.

*Not every method works for everyone. I challenge you to be creative and tweak these tools to make them work for you.

Additional tools I find helpful:

  • donjon World Builder – Awesome free resource for when you need a particular name, character, building, city, planet, race, or star system.
  • Scapple – Great for brainstorming even before you start your snowflake if you like to make mind maps.
  • NaNoWriMo Forums – Tap into communities of writers all over the world if you have a question about what to name something, need or have an opening line, or want ideas that others have put up for adoption. Be kind and give as well as take.

Will I ever go all eBook?

Student project by Rachel Walsh: Kindle Metaphor

I’m the type of person that feels like she needs to answer every question asked. I like to help people and discover new information. I love answers. I often find myself answering questions that were meant to be rhetorical. So when I encountered each of Nathan Bransford’s several surveys about eBooks, I dutifully answered each one of them.

After casually exploring publishing stuff on the internet, I feel like everyone remotely involved with books is asking this question. I too was pulled in for a little while, thinking it was quite necessary for me to find an answer or come up with a reasonable prediction supported by facts about what the future of books and ebooks looks like.

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five_years

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But you know what? The best answer to that question, I finally discovered, is this: Let’s find out!

All this dramatic talk about whether eBooks is the future and will printed books stop being printed made me anxious every time I bought a book. If I bought a printed book, I’d stop just before getting in the checkout line (or one-clicking on Amazon) and wonder if I was contributing to a system that robs starving writers of their profits and if by keeping print book companies in business, I’m holding back the future. Every time I bought an eBook, I paused before reading it, wondering if I had just contributed to a future devoid of the romance of the printed page, the delight of holding a real book in one’s hands, and one where copyright law is impossible to enforce.

There are ups and downs to both sides. But now I realize that there might not be any sides at all.

Since Nathan’s first survey back in 2007, I find I have simply started reading more in both formats than subtracting one from the other.

I have my printed books that I read when I’m at home. I also use them to fill the beautiful bookshelves my grandpa made for me so that I’m never very far away from being able to read.

My grandpa makes beautiful bookshelves!

Then I have my eBooks for those times when I have a few moments to spare unexpectedly: grocery store lines, a cancelled appointment, or when I can’t get to sleep but don’t want to bother with a bulky reading light.

AND — I also “read” via audiobooks on my 45 minute drive to work. (I’m rather surprised no one has debated if audiobooks are the future or worried that they will be too popular for other formats to exist. I mean, I know it’s kind of obvious since audiobooks have been around for awhile, but I still feel like they’re left out when conversations about book formats arise.)

So really, I don’t know if eBooks are the future or if I will ever someday be an only eBook reader. All I can tell from my very small data sample (that is, me and the time since eBooks have existed), is that eBooks enable me to read more. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Even this chart from an Amazon kindle event agrees with me!

amazon-event-2012-_1200-2

See that? eBooks are incredible and have surpassed book sales. But do you see the book sales going down? Not really. This makes me happy. Keep reading, people! :D

PitchMAS and First Chapter

Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

Hello gentle readers,

Please cross your fingers for me this Thursday and Friday. I entered an online event to pitch my book to agents and editors. There are several opportunities throughout this multi-day online event in both the Blogosphere and the Twitterverse. Not only do I LOVE social media events involving writing and publishing, but I’m excited to have my pitch seen by agents and editors. If you have a polished book waiting to be published, I encourage you to check out the PitchMAS blog. Deadline for the first part has passed, but you can still get in on the Twitter pitch party that’s coming Friday.

NaNo2013 Cover

Also, since I’ve been editing and polishing my book, The Thoughtmaker, I updated the first chapter on this website. It’s changed a lot. Please go check it out (click on “The Thoughtmaker” in the menu bar above) and leave your thoughts/comments. I welcome all feedback.

Have yourself a merry little PitchMAS. And may your pitch be right. :D

Every NaNo is different (10 things I learned in 2013)

Used with permission from Debbi Ridpath Ohi at inky girl.com.
Used with permission from Debbi Ridpath Ohi at inky girl.com.

Growing up, my church  had a 4-day program meant to train future missionaries. Called Niko, it was a survivalist-type program meant to stretch and challenge every area of one’s life: spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, and interpersonal. It was held every month from April to October and I went on as many of them as I could. I loved it.

They were hard, extreme, and helped me learn a ton. We had a saying for people who went on multiple Niko’s: “Every Niko’s different.” And it was true. No matter if it was my first one or my sixteenth, it was always challenging. I always learned something new.

I’m starting to feel the same way about NaNoWriMo. I do it every year. (And sometimes more than once now that they have the Camps running during April and July.) It always challenges me, I learn so much, and even though I’ve done it before, there will always be more that I need to learn about my own writing.

This year was the mother-load. I picked up so many gems this past month, I feel they’re worth sharing.

Things I learned from NaNo 2013:

  1. Timeline software and world-building programs are the bomb! But they don’t really help me write any better. They’re just for fun.
  2. Changing tense and point of view from what I normally write helps reveal where I am weak in my writing. Even if I don’t keep writing in the same format, switching often does help with perspective.
  3. The importance of reading cannot be over-emphasized. This month I read five books while doing NaNo, and it has refreshed my perspective in ways I didn’t even know were possible.
  4. Perspective is important! (As made obvious by 2 and 3.) I cannot write well if my perspective is jaded. I cannot write well if I’ve been working on the same thing in the same way for four years (which is what I tried to do until November).
  5. The world needs stories. I thought this was a mere romantic sentiment that writers wished was true. But it really is true: Stories make the world turn.
  6. Going to write-ins 4 times a week is both awesome and unsustainable.
  7. Connecting with other writers, even if it means just sitting in the same room writing silently, is a great boon to dealing with the ups and downs of writing.
  8. Editing your own work is never nearly as much fun as editing someone else’s work.
  9. Editing is contagious, like hearing someone else speak in a different accent then finding yourself copying them. Afterwards, you want to correct every sentence you see to make it better. This is both beneficial and annoying.
  10. Writing a bare story takes considerably less effort than taming that story and making into something readable. You may have written more words during your first draft, but editing takes even more out of you than NaNoWriMo does.
(Just in case you were curious about my word count this year)
(Just in case you were curious about my word count this year)

Changing to 1st person present tense

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I was talking with my writing buddy and cousin, Sarah, the other day. She concluded our conversation with “This should be a blog post!” (She tends to end a lot of our conversations that way, and I always mean to write them down, but I usually forget. *cue constant reminder texts from Sarah after she reads this*) Anyways, this time I remembered. We were talking about why I changed my current novel from third person past tense to first person present tense.

If you know me, you know this is a big deal. I have vehemently avoided first person and present tense separately, so to include both in my novel took a major change of view point (literally. As in the novel and in real life. Get it?)

First of all, I eschewed present tense because all I had ever read was past tense. To me, past tense is how a proper book should be written. It’s how the pros did it, and doing anything else was a cop-out. I used to think writers who resorted to present tense were just using a cheap trick to make up for the fact that they couldn’t get the reader engaged with their plot.

The truth: It IS a cheap trick that gets the reader more engaged with the book they are reading, but it’s much harder to write in present tense. It takes a lot of skill to do it well. Once I started reading books in present tense, it made sense. I hope I never again think badly of a writing technique before I try it.

Second, I hated reading in first person because it sounded so selfish to me. The last thing I needed was to listen to someone else’s story that’s all about them. I was sick of hearing “me, me, me” and “I, I, I”.

The truth: Once I gave first person a chance, I realized it was easier to imagine myself in the story. I also realized it was silly of me to be frustrated at a fictional book for being selfish. Isn’t that what I want when I read, to be drawn in, to learn all about everything that’s going on in the main character’s head space? I tried it, and it was really cool. I think first person reading also builds up one’s empathy skills, since it forces you to see through someone else’s eyes. As I’m learning more and more lately, empathy is a valuable and rare commodity in this modern world.

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Another writer friend who’s opinion I greatly respect gave me feedback on my story. She basically said I need to start from scratch. That’s not actually what she said, but after reading her notes and taking them to heart, that’s the conclusion I came to. She suggested I turn off my computer, pull out a blank piece of paper, and write the first chapter by hand without looking at what I’ve done previously. That was very wise of her to suggest, since I’ve been working on this book for 4 years now and have all kinds of previous draft baggage hanging out in my brain.

I wasn’t quite brave enough to turn off my computer, but I did open a new file and refused to look at my old work (with the exception of once sentence full of made-up words I couldn’t remember how to spell). And on a whim, I decided to write it in first person present tense. I have to say it was not awful. I don’t think it improved any, but I was surprised at how this first attempt was the same quality level as the draft I’ve been working on for years. With improvement, I’ve decided it could be pretty good.

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The other thing I realized is that all the momentum for my story is in the later half. I’ve been frustrated with trying to revise it because I’ve only started from the beginning. So I’m starting from the end this time, re-writing it in first person present tense, and working my way backwards. It’s like my story is a dry piece of toast, with all the butter clumped up on the far side. I’m going to try and spread it evenly over the whole thing, working backwards, and hopefully, there’s enough butter to go around.

These are my solutions to my present novelizing woes and I think it’s the first lesson I’ve learned about editing: Editing is not so much deciding what I like and don’t like in my story, it’s about identifying problems and finding solutions. In this case, the solution was drastic and required me to try something new that I was sure I wouldn’t like. But isn’t that just like life, sometimes? Or vegetables?

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But what will you draw?

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When I was little, my older brother got a set of Cray-Pas oil pastels. We were both very excited. I watched as he created a few drawings. I asked if I could draw with them, but he said I had to decide what I was going to draw first.

I got frustrated. I knew I wanted to draw, but I didn’t know what. I just wanted to grab a color and start scribbling. I was serious about art even then, so I understood his reasoning: these were precious art supplies, not to be wasted! So I went to the top of our stairs and sat to think about what I wanted to draw. I eventually got distracted by something else.

But then, one day I was able to convince him. (What kind of older brother lets his sister use his art supplies? An amazing one!) I drew a sun, a flower, and a heart. None of them were very good, but all of them helped me understand how to use this unique medium. That was how I first learned about blending, which led to shading, which formed the basis for many of the creative things I do today.

As I look back on this, I realize two things:

1. Being forced to critically think about what I wanted to draw was an important lesson. It made me consider subject matter, who my audience was, and the purpose of art.

2. The only method that resulted in any drawings was the second one.

This is why I love NaNoWriMo. It’s a challenge that forces me to plan carefully and also dive right in. My first attempt left me with several pages of bad writing but a glowing excitement that I could, perhaps, write a novel. The next year, I planned. I practiced writing every day. When November came around, I wrote an entire novel. Ever since, I’ve spent every month that’s not November planning and thinking critically about my next story. My outlines are sometimes longer than the novel itself.

But come November, I madly scribble with glee. I go where the story takes me. At times I forsake the outline completely, and that’s ok.

Whether you are a planner or a pantster (flying by the seat of your pants), don’t be afraid to embrace wild creativity. Grab that Cray-Pas and scribble, if only to learn more about the medium you are working in. No writing is ever wasted. It might be unreadable practice, but you grow with each word you type.

Don’t forsake planning, either. Critical thinking leads to curiosity which is the heart of an artist.

The obligatory NaNoWriMo post

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You know what it is. (If you don’t, click here.)

I won’t bore you with details, but just wanted to let you know that I will be writing like crazy in November. If blog posts are light, dishes are piled in the sink, and dirty laundry strewn across the floor, it’s because I’m madly trying to finish a novel.

Wish me luck!

For those doing NaNoWriMo: I’ll be writing every Wednesday at TeaSource in Eden Prairie from 4:30 – 8:00 if you want to come join me.