If you want to get to the top, you’ve to start at the bottom, same with anything.
–Keith Richards in the number one New York Times bestseller Life
Three cheers for National Novel Writing Month! Anything that convinces aspiring writers to churn out 50,000 words in a month deserves huge thanks from booklovers. According to an article in the New York Times (11/14), NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) has inspired writers around the world to produce almost 200 million words.
The words of the French noir poet Charles Beaudelaire in his poem “Get Drunk” have seduced millions of college students. He advises them to get drunk and stay drunk on anything–wine, poetry, virtue. Every November thousands of writers get high on turning out more than 1,600 words a day for thirty days without taking the time to edit them.
Agents and editors are wary of the event, because on December first, writers, eager to sell their “finished” novels, start contacting them. New writers aren’t always aware of the difference between writing and typing. Putting words on a screen is admirable and perhaps the beginning of greatness, but it is only the first step.
At a recent Netroots conference for progressive organizations (www.netrootsnation.org), Eden James, managing director of the Courage Campaign (www.couragecampaign.org), advised writers to “write drunk, edit sober,” to unleash your imagination and creativity run wild when you’re writing your first draft.
But after your right brain has unleashed your first draft, it’s time for your left brain to kick in and do as many drafts as needed to make sure every word is right, and your work has the impact you want it to. The first readers to share it with are those who can help you ensure your work is ready to submit. Check out the list of readers to enlist at www.larsenpomada.com. Join or start a critique group, online or off. Try www.meetup.com to find a local writers group.
NaNoWriMo has produced one bestseller, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, but not in thirty days. When your trusty band of readers tell you your work is ready, test-market your book with an ebook, a podcast, and print-on-demand copies. Ask for feedback.
Writer and editor Nina Amir offers the same challenge in November for nonfiction writers. So if you’ve been yearning to let that memoir spill out of you, there’s your chance. For information, visit www.writenonfictioninnovember.com.
But since you missed this November, why wait for a year? Invite your muse to sit on your shoulder. Ask a friend to join you or at least encourage you and get high on writing. If winter has you stuck indoors, give yourself the gift of time and let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. You may be starting at the bottom, but your outburst of prose may lead you to the greening of a career.
The Eighth San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / President’s Day Weekend, February 18-20, 2011 / Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel on Nob Hill / Keynoters: Dorothy Allison & David Morrell / Pitch your book to agents and editors from both coasts / More than 50 breakout sessions / 100 presenters / www.sfwriters.org / firstname.lastname@example.org / blog: http://sfwriters.org/blog / free MP3s at www.sfwriters.info / open to anyone: a day of in-depth classes on Monday, February 21st
New! San Francisco Writers University: Where Writers Meet and You Learn, a project of the San Francisco Writers Conference / Laurie McLean, Dean / www.sfwritersu.com