Writing is 99 percent sweat… so don’t sweat it

The problem with writing is that it’s only about 1 percent inspiration. The rest is sweat. It’s a lesson definitely driven home during National Novel Writing Month.

Essential writing fuel!
Essential writing fuel!

Everybody writes differently, but it seems to me that one of the reasons why cranking out 50,000 words in 30 days is so sweat-worthy is because it’s too tempting to get stuck on the fact that your 1-percent inspiration idea somehow vanishes when you write it down.

Some writers grind it – making each sentence perfect before moving on to the next. Reviewing each paragraph before stepping ahead.

And sure, that works for some writers. But it slows things down. A lot. And it’s possible to get lost in the details – to miss the bigger picture, ending up with something that’s structurally awry.

The thing about NaNo is that it’s to do with output-to-time, which is also a key skill demanded of professional writers.

What’s the answer? Well, there’s that old adage that a bad first draft is better than no first draft.

When I wrote my sci-fi novella ‘Missionary’, I put quite a bit of time and effort into the first half – which was pretty much the setup for the second half.

The second half? I blurted it in one turbocharged weekend that produced around 5000 words in a day-and-a-bit. At that pace I could do NaNo in a week. Of course it’s not sustainable – I couldn’t have done that without the weeks I put into the setup writing.

What it meant was that I had a rough first draft that was consistent for pace, approach and perspective – the key building blocks. It was straight-forward to then re-work some of the wording to smooth of the rough edges, because the foundation was right.

And that, my friends, is also a good way of working on NaNo – get the foundation right, and the rest follows.

Click to buy
Click to buy

If you want to know more tips and hints to win National Novel Writing Month – methods and techniques for getting up to speed and writing that book fast – check out my short quick-start manual How to get writing… fast. Available on Kindle.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016