Building Your Writing From the Basics: Total Immersion
Copyright © 2014 George Green and Lizzy Kremer. All rights reserved.
Keeping going with your writing can be hard, so here’s a look at ways in which you can write a lot in a short space of time.
Writing a substantial piece (call it a novel for the sake of argument) is hard. Even full-time professional writers take a year or so, and many take longer. This timeframe is daunting, especially when you think ‘What if I spend a year on a project only to discover that it’s not working?’ That’s a fair question. The bad news is that there’s no way past the fact that the only way to discover whether or not a project is viable is to write it. However, the good news is that you can find that out in a lot less than a year. Here’s how.
Set aside a month when not too much is happening. Everyone has busy periods, and of course, stuff happens all the time that you didn’t plan for, but try at least to identify a month when you don’t have any major projects planned, such as moving house, having a baby or climbing Mount Everest. The idea is that you will write 1500 words on every day of that month. This may seem like a lot (though it’s less than three pages of text), but the crucial point is that you don’t edit.
Whatever you write, no matter how appalling you think it is, no matter how nonsensical it is, don’t try and fix it. Don’t even worry about grammar or syntax. You can, if you wish, spend a bit of time beforehand planning, so that you have a general idea of the direction in which your writing is going to go, but no more than that. Don’t be too stuck in a particular direction, though – just let the writing go where it goes. Don’t edit; don’t correct; don’t fix. Just write.
At the end of the month you’ll have around 45,000 words, but that’s not what you’re thinking about. If someone said to you, ‘Write 45,000 words’, you’d say ‘That’s a huge commitment; it’s too much’. If that person said ‘Write for a year’, you’d probably say the same thing. ‘Write three pages every day for a month’, on the other hand, is hard – yes – but because the timeframe is short it’s do-able. And when you’ve got 45,000 words of very badly written and un-fixed first draft, not only will you have a good idea of whether the project is working but you’ll have come up with all sorts of alternatives because that’s what happens when you write this way. And, guess what, it took you just a month.
Online organisations can help you. The best-known one in the UK is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to which you can sign up and be put in touch with other people in the same area as yourself with whom you can even swap work or just have a moan about how hard it all is. Knowing that other people are doing what you’re doing can be nice; you can offer each other support and encouragement. Or, you may prefer to work alone, which is fine. Of course, a month of solid writing works, too, if you know precisely what you want to do, and it means that you’ll write half of your first draft in just one month. It’ll be rough, but then you’ll have done it. And that’s a good thing.