Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Seems I go back to the Cracked well quite often but Robert Brockway has How to Become an Author, in 5 Incredibly Difficult Steps

It's intersting stuff, and about what you'd expect if you had any experience with the process: Getting the Attention of a Publisher, Finding a Publishable Idea, Doing an Assload of Research, Editing and Editing and Editing ... and Collecting Your Shitty Money.

Note what's missing: Writing.

Because while that is a very hard part, making sure you have a publishable manuscript (research, editing, and writing) and some means of publishing is the real meat and potatoes.

Which is why in retrospect ideas like Nanowrimo are... limited at best. Yes, while getting 50,000 words in a month is useful... the quality is what counts, and unless you do a lot of legwork beforehand and afterwards you'll end up with a pile. Sure it's a big pile, but still a pile.

Say you have a flashback set in a tram in Vladivostok in the 80's: an IBM programmer in the laptop division and a soviet jet-age aviatrix ace are talking as they watch the sun set over the bay.

Just take a guess at all the things you'll have to research just to see if that one scene makes an once of sense.

I suppose a big tell is Nanowrimo's famous way to defeat writer's block: "When in doubt have a man with a gun step into the room." While apparently one of Raymond Chandler's tricks it's... yeah.

It's a pure brute force solution with the aim or producing words, regardless of the headaches such a move will have later on at the editing stage.

That's not to say that Nanowrimo isn't a potential tool to motivate. But... really a month? Novels tend to take a bit longer than that. Brockway's novel took nearly twenty times that long to write... And I'm pretty sure his book wasn't a million words long. Unless it was over three thousand words a page (hint the "standard" is about 250 words per page).

For writing: a month is a sprint a short story, while a novel is a marathon.

Now I don't mind having Nanowrimo once, but I cheated. I came up with an idea, defined the characters and the world, and then wrote about 20k words before the month even started. Then I wrote 50k in a month.

And I'm still poking at it and editing the results.

Personally, I'd rather adapt this bit of advice from Gabe of Penny Arcade.

When I was a junior in High School Mark Kistler came to visit the elementary school where my mom worked. I had grown up watching his television show and so I went down there to meet him. I took along my portfolio, which at that time pretty much consisted of shitty drawings of Wolverine. I got the chance to talk to him and show him my stuff, which he actually liked. He offered me a job working on his next book.
After everything was all finished and the book went off to print he paid me what I now know was fucking didly squat for the amount of work I did and gave me this advice: "Draw every day, no matter what." For some reason those words stuck with me.

If you take time every single day to draw you cannot help but improve. Just take a sketchbook with you to school and draw the kids in your class. Or take one into meetings with you, the boss will think your taking notes. If you can just draw something everyday you will be surprised how much and how fast you improve.

Note he said that in 2003. In the meantime, PA has grown to include a dozen full time people, run a multimillion dollar charity, two annual conventions, and so on.

Obviously, the my point is the value of consistent practice. Set a daily goal and meet it.

Every damn day of your life.

Oh and track it too. So you can see how often you're missing the goal.

This way instead of writing becoming an grueling ordeal one that is done once or twice a year and put aside with relief the rest of the time, it becomes a daily habit.

And people are creatures of habit.

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