Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing is a Process

A couple of Saturdays ago, I decided to go through my documents and try to guesstimate how many words I've written in the last decade.

Yes, decade.

It's hard for me to even fathom that I have been writing for over half of my life--and that it's almost four years since I started the OYAN curriculum for the first time.

I used to delete things I didn't like when I wrote them, but I always regretted it. I have decided to save EVERYTHING. I label it carefully, giving myself dates as often as I can remember when I jotted down this or thought up that, because it's fascinating for me to go back and look at where I've been.

I've noticed that my brain tends to save space when writing lengthy prose by simply layering my most recent work over anything older. Let enough time go by, and I'll have forgotten it. There were 18,000 words in a story that I barely remembered (it came back to me as I flipped through it--but still!). It's like those messages on the computer. They pop up saying: "Forest of Lies by Nairam already exists. Would you like to replace it?" My brain says "yep!" and I forgot entire plot points that I abandoned early on in the process (it's amazing to me to look though the outlining I did for that novel. I adhered to the basic things, but all of those character sheets and theme studies? Wow, they changed.).

Also, writers tend to be extremely harsh and self-critical. Because we both have memory-saving brains and self-criticism, we (and I really mean I) forget how far we've come.

So I save things. Like this.
The font at the top is what I actually wrote in. It was yellow on blue. I just had to convert it when printed so my mom could actually read it.

I worked on Runaway Castle for around six years. And thousands upon thousands of words. It would eventually become Betsy Flowain, my first OYAN novel.
Hosa = Jarvis; Jonathan = Michael; Wind (narrator) = Betsy

How times change!

Writers often talk about how looking back on work, they "cringe." I used to say the same. But I don't cringe anymore. Instead I...

1) Laugh. The stuffed animal stories my sister and I did *are* pretty hysterical--sometimes when we were intending to be, sometimes when we were not...

and

2) Appreciate! Even when I'm reading Betsy Flowain, I get some of the same kind of "why on earth did I write THAT?" moments. The same is true of early drafts of Forest of Lies (especially when I still called it Robin Hood--oh my.) I get that kind of want-to-cringe feeling--then stop myself.

In everything, you must appreciate the past to understand the present and work for the future. Because my brain is intent on layering my novels right on top of each other, I keep my paper print-outs and my 101 MG story folder. I keep the old things to remind myself that I AM getting better. I keep the old things to put my worry about quality to rest--even if what I'm writing right now ISN'T the best, it will help my next work be that much better.

I discovered something else when I looked at those old folders.

I have written approximately 441,000 fiction words (not counting however many I lost in a computer crash, my deleted stories, or the short scenes that OYAN asks for in the outlining process) in 10 years.

About 300,000 of those words have been in the last 4 years.

It takes about 100,000 words for a novel or novella (40,000-50,000) of mine to come to completion, sometimes more.

NONE of those words or years were wasted.

Writing is a process.

I have come far and I have far to go.

And you know what? That's exciting.

My first novel-sized story. After I got this far, I decided using a computer would be a better idea.

3 comments:

Sandy said...

My brother and I wrote stuffed animal stories too... XDXDXD

Nairam said...

Stuffed animals = first characters. :D

Taylor Lynn said...

It's so fun to look back on things you wrote when you were younger! Though I've definitely cringed before. ;) LOL

I try to save most things, though, because I know that at some point I'll want to look back and reread it all, and laugh/appreciate it! :)

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