medievalscribe1You know, words matter. Sure, it’s good to see you’ve written quantity. But, honestly, I think many people working on NaNo take the whole word count thing a little too seriously, and I think it freaks some people out. 50K is a valiant goal, but it’s not quite long enough for most genres to be considered a whole novel, and it’s especially hard to do in November. I mean, November? Really? That pretty much eliminates anyone working in retail, or anyone with a family. I know this week will be extremely challenging through Thanksgiving…

At any rate, I’ve been approaching my word count with caution. Because, let’s face it: I’m not exactly a novel newbie. Sure, I’m not published. But I’ve written books before, in spite of school, and having babies, and working. I get that part. So I don’t want to just write for the sake of writing. It’s got to mean something to me; it’s got be good.

So, this morning I opened up Scrivener and took a look at the word glut from last night. I never went over it; I just fell asleep, completely mentally spent. I wasn’t expecting much, because the green-tea fueled write-a-thon from last evening really is an anomaly. I’ve never written that much that fast before.

Funny thing is, it’s actually some of the best writing in the novel to date, shocked as I am to admit that. Don’t know what sort of sweet spot I hit, or what kind of stars aligned but for someone, like me, who is insanely (and I mean, without reason or sanity) critical of her writing, I found very little to complain about. The scenes were vivid, the descriptions clear, the dialogue particularly strong (even when I interspersed the dialogue in Maddie’s head with the actual, talking conversations… writing dialogue when two women share one body… is a challenge).

Anyway, in the next few days I have to eke out 10K. It won’t finish the book, but it’ll finish NaNo. I’m a bit torn as to what to do when NaNo is over, because I know Pilgrim of the Sky is much more marketable than AGC is in its current state. So I might write a bit more while it’s fresh on my mind, finish the draft, and then set it aside to work on AGC until I can go back and edit again. I don’t want to lose the moment, in other words.

As I’ve read some recent postings of people on NaNo boards saying everything from “How can I even write 20K” to “I’m writing 200K because 50K is not a challenge” consider one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Shakespeare: “When words are scarce they are rarely spent in vain.” Don’t just write for writing’s sake if you can help it. Tell your story, and tell it as best as you can. Make the words count; don’t just count words.

But, consider this, too. Discipline is important. The ACT of writing is just as essential as the word count; that’s what I think NaNoWriMo is so good at demonstrating. It helps aspiring writers get a window into a life where writing is what you do; it’s what you do every moment when life allows. When you don’t have a typewriter or a pencil, you do it in your head. You dream it, you sing it. You are the story. But great stories don’t materialize, or at least rarely do they, in unpracticed people.

In the excellent words of Mr. Ray Bradbury (I figured someone said it better than me, and I was right.)

It simply follows that quantity produces quality. Only if you do a lot will you ever be any good. If you do very little, you‘ll never have quality of idea or quality of output. The excitement and creativity comes from a whole lot of doing; hoping you‘ll suddenly be struck by lightning. If you only write a few things, you‘re doomed. The history of literature is the history of prolific people. I always say to students, give me four pages a day, every day. That’s three or four hundred thousand words a year. Most of that will be bilge, but the rest … It will save your life!

ReginIt occurs to me that during yesterday’s very early morning post (this was before I even started work, people!) I missed out on a really fantastic comparison.

How could this be? Me, the writer? Missing a simile!?

Well, I should say, duh.

Yesterday during my Runes class (yes, I take a class on ancient Runes… and yes, that is super awesome) and we were talking about Regin and Sigurd, and how the sword Regin smithed was indeed the best EVAR, but it also took him three times to get it perfect (and good enough to slay a dragon, no less!).

So I realized, then, that gosh–the parallels in writing a novel and smithing are incredible. Yes, I’ve written novels before. And yes, they’re far from perfect. They would indeed “shatter” if used. But taking the time to edit, that’s like tempering the metal, refining it, making sure that it holds up.

And yes, it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s physically and mentally exhausting. But in the end, the final product will be that much more durable, because I took the time to do it.

Sure, some people can learn a craft and do it flawlessly each time. But most of us mortals have to work really damn hard to get it right. Because if you care at all about your work–whether it’s swordsmithing, portrait painting, novel writing, or invention tinkering–you have to be willing to make it better. You have to be able to say, “I wrote this, but it’s okay if I delete it, because it’s not good enough.”

I suppose in a way, I have my own characters to thank for this insight, as obvious as it might have been. Brick and Cora appeared to me in a flash of clarity almost a year ago to the date, their faces as vivid as if I’d seen them across the room. And since then, they’ve taken me on quite a surprising journey. I’ve learned more writing The Aldersgate than any other work to date, and not just about the story, either. Working on The Aldersgate has given me new insight into myself, my soul, my work; I feel like I know myself better having gone through the process.

So maybe it’s not just the sword that gets tempered, but the smith, too.