Friday, November 11, 2016

Too Much Writing?

Is there such a thing as a writer doing too much writing? If such a thing is possible, that is the situation I am in at present.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in the middle of a big work-related writing project. It is going quite slowly, because in order to write I find myself having to do a huge amount of research and background reading. Of course, as well, I am not putting in full work days on the project, but just half days four or five times a week. I had intended to be finished that project by the end of October. But I am still labouring away on it. (It's close to completion though!)

Then there is this blog. Unlike some bloggers, I have not set myself the expectation of generating two posts a week, or even one post a week. I just kind of write a post when something interesting comes to mind and I feel like sharing it. That said, it is two weeks since I have last posted here. I have just been way too busy writing, somewhere else.

It is November, National Novel Writing Month, and I am writing a novel! During NaNoWriMo, millions of people around the world commit to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. In order to accomplish this goal, one has to write an average of 1,667 words a day on the novel. I am already behind on the average, as I have only managed to to squeeze out an average of a little over 1,300 words a day.

I am having immense fun writing this novel. It is a speculative fiction novel about a dystopian future with a little bit of a coming of age story, some romance, and some social critique thrown in. Speculative fiction/science fiction is a new genre for me. In my previous two attempts at writing a novel, both were of the literary/mainstream fiction genre. One of those two novels, Memories of a White Girl, was written during previous NaNoWriMos over three consecutive Novembers, and it is now a mammoth 125,000 page first draft, still awaiting the revision process. The first draft of the other novel, still lacking a title, is about 3/4 finished, and I began that one years ago, before I had ever heard of NaNoWriMo.

This year during Nano, I have decided to turn a deaf ear to the advice commonly given to participants. Participants are encouraged to just write down whatever flows through their mind, not stopping to edit or rethink it. The idea is that by not giving in to the internal editor, who can be rather harsh and critical, the wells of creativity will flow. As well, people who struggle to find ideas and who procrastinate for that reason will overcome their inhibitions because they tell themselves that they just have to write something, anything, and it doesn't have to be good.

Well, I don't write that way. I am the kind of writer who never lacks for ideas, for one thing. When I write, I like to craft each sentence and paragraph perfectly. (Aha! The perfectionist rears its ugly head!) Each time I sit down to write, I read over the recent section that I have written and carefully revise and edit it, changing word choices, adding more vivid description, and refining the dialogue. Then I go onto the next part in a fairly linear way. With that approach to writing, when the first draft is done, it is a much more polished first draft that requires less revision than if I had just thrown any old words onto the page. I love to craft a story, and I am not at all fond of revising, especially if the manuscript is a big mess. I really think that my first NaNoWriMo novel would have gotten beyond a first draft if I have written it my way rather than following Nano advice.

I am nearing the end of the fourth chapter of the novel and have introduced the central characters and portrayed their society as it functions in some future time. Now I am beginning to introduce some big troubles for the main character and her significant other. If you are involved in NaNoWriMo, you can read a synopsis and brief excerpt of my novel in progress under my profile. My pen name is AnnaHarvey.

So, one thing that I have discovered while being on leave is that I am pretty busy. My secret dread about retirement is that I will find myself sitting around twiddling my thumbs and contemplating the awful nothingness of being. Or some such thing. Rob is fond of saying that he has never been as busy as he has been since retiring. I always heard that statement with a certain degree of skepticism (I mean, what could be busier than 14 hour work days?). But if my leave period is any indication of what retirement will be like, I'm discovering that Rob just might be right. Phew! Saved from contemplating my navel!

So as well as all of the writing that I have described, I have been fitting in daily exercise most days - yoga, a walk, or some cycling. Last weekend, we spent a lovely afternoon riding mountain bike trails in the river valley. On Sunday, we made an all-day excursion to some hoodoo formations, and hiked through them and viewed petroglyphs that are said to have been created in the late 1800's. I am working on a large landscape painting, and also on preparing two of my plein air paintings for an exhibition coming up in early December. I have arranged to rent a house on Vancouver Island for a month at Christmas time. Christmas with our kids and grandchildren - yay! I have been to a concert, lunching with a friend, and on the phone to far-away friends and family. And I baked cookies, which our waistlines have not needed, especially with all of the Halloween candy around that also needed to be eaten up.

I have to add one brief whine. The Blogger app for my iPad is broken, and there is no update in sight. My favourite way to write on my blog is on my iPad - it makes it so easy to access my photos, and it can be done while lying on the couch. The Blogger website, unfortunately, is a nightmare to use on the iPad. So, I am apologizing in advance for any typos in my posts. Now, my only way to write on Blogger and access adequate editing capabilities is to go and fire up the laptop. I wish Google and Apple would just get over their rivalry and produce some decent Blogger functionality for the iPad. So if anyone knows of a great Blogger app that works well on an iPad, please let me know.



The photos in this post are of the hoodoos that we visited. Life is good.

15 comments:

  1. Wow Jude! That is a lot of writing! I'm like you when I write and edit along the way. When I wrote my dissertation it slowed me down a great deal at points, but in the end I was done ahead of most of my peers. I guess we're just wired that way! I've never thought about writing a novel. Maybe when I finish up my full-time job and we are traveling, a novel would be something I could think about doing (but definitely not now!) Your Christmas time plan sounds just wonderful! And it's only a few weeks away - hard to believe!

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  2. Vicki, I have spent a lot of my life writing in one form or another: academic writing, reports, proposals, endless emails, this blog, poetry, and fiction. For me, poetry and long fiction are the most fun of all! I have to say that I use a meticulous, revise-as-I-go approach to all of my writing, even poetry. The hardest writing for me is when I am collaborating with others who use the "just get any old thing down on the page" approach, such as when a committee is preparing a report. I hate the "we'll clean it up later" part (which more often than not I volunteer to do - why is that?). If you're thinking of trying out writing a novel, check out the NaNoWriMo website - they have stuff going on in other months besides November.

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  3. Hi, Jude - I cannot imagine you ever 'sitting around twiddling your thumbs' -- not during leave, and not during your retirement.
    If you would like to meet for coffee or lunch when you are on Vancouver Island this December/January, just let me know. Last month I met another blogger (Janis from RetirementallyChallenged). It was a very positive experience.
    Donna

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  4. Donna, I would LOVE to meet for lunch or coffee! We take possession of the rental house the evening of Dec 5 and leave the morning of Jan 4. The place we rented is in Parksville, so possibly not too far from you. Do you have my email? I think I might have yours.
    Jude

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  5. That is a lot of writing you are doing Jude. Any way of reading some of it if we cannot access NaNoWriMo?

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  6. John, I have never published any of my fiction, so there's nothing out there in the public domain. This novel that I am currently writing is very much in rough first draft form (despite the best efforts of the perfectionist in my head). Given the warts and plot holes I am not sure if I am ready to share much of it yet. Although, I did post a brief synopsis and excerpt on NaNoWriMo -- maybe I could repost that here.... hmm, I'll think about it. Thank-you for your interest! Maybe a book is in your future too?
    Jude

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  7. Interesting! And yes, aren't all us bloggers secretly writers that long for the long format? My trouble is I can't decide between putting down on paper my lovely children's book or a dark narrative about forbidden desires, compulsion and death. Maybe I should just stick to the blog.

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  8. Ha! How about combining the two themes to write a children's book on forbidden desires, compulsion and death? I think there's a gap in the literature there.

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  9. The brothers Grimm had a pretty good crack at that gap. Dark territory. But you could be onto something. Brothers Grimm for a new age!

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  10. This post is so recognizable, Jude, from the extremely busy times of never being bored, to a head full of ideas, to a writing style that involves editing along the way, to being a perfectionist (which is a tough personality trait to be a happy individual!). Where we differ (among many other things, I am sure :-)) is that I prefer my computer to write and that you seem way more creative and multi-talented! :-)

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  11. Liesbet, perfectionism can be a frustrating trait, especially when a person is hard on themselves for failing to live up to impossibly high standards. But I like to think that perfectionism also has an upside. I think I have been more productive and achieved more in my life because I have tended to push myself hard.

    Thanks for your kind words. What kind of writing do you most enjoy doing?

    Jude

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  12. You are right about the positive effects too, Jude. But, I do believe that non-perfectionist people have an "easier", "more relaxed" life. :-). I like to write about our adventurous life, things that don't require research. I like to share personal experiences on my blog (Roaming About - A Life Less Ordinary) and I am currently working on a memoir. In the past, I wrote articles about our eight year sailing life and destinations in the Caribbean and Pacific.

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  13. Liesbet, I checked out your blog and see that you have a busy writing life, one that is full of adventure. Wonderful! And, yes, you are right - life is harder for perfectionists. Taken to the extreme, it can become part of a mental illness. But for me, I have accepted that I have that tendency, I try not to go overboard with it, and I appreciate the upside.

    Jude

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  14. Thanks for swinging by my blog, Jude! That is such a good way to look at perfectionism. We appreciate the good parts of that trait as well, especially in others we have to deal with! :-)

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  15. Liesbet, I enjoyed reading your blog. What an adventurous life you have!

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