Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Percolation and Writing Goals, thanks to Linda Nagata

Linda Nagata (who incidentally is a terrific writer, and you can find her work in ebook form at Book View Cafe) offers some thoughts on writing goals versus "Percolation" here.

The problem with the word-count-per-day goal — that is, swearing to oneself to write a thousand or two-thousand words everyday — is that to be successful you have to have a pretty good idea of what happens next in your story.
It’s pretty clear that, for me at least, ideas need to percolate. I wish it weren’t so. I wish I could sit down and know what comes next, and write it, and then move on to another project. I wish I didn’t squander so much time that could be put to productive use doing other things. But it is what it is, and I’ve been dealing with the process long enough that, despite the frustrations, I can remain fairly confident that the words will eventually come.

I suspect that even those of us who are not participating in NaNoWriMo are thinking about the process of "just writing."

Here's my response: We think very much alike on this. It's so easy to fall into quantifying creative output -- so many words per day, so many pages per week. Goals are good, but creating a story involves so much more than those final words.

I'm a revision-based writer, so I do push myself to draft quickly when the story is flowing. But I'm experienced enough to realize when it isn't, when it's time to step back, go off and do something else, and get my mind derailed from the oncoming train wreck. If the bones of the story are sound, even if they aren't all there, I have what I need to work with.

I wonder if this is why NaNoWriMo doesn't appeal to me, but I've done well with shorter length/time challenges. Novels are too complex to barrel through in a month.

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