by Laura Bickle
The blank page can be the most intimidating force in the universe.
It says nothing, and it's likely to say nothing. I fight against all that white space, trying to fill it, struggling to turn a ream of blank paper into a book. I used to take years to finish a book. I'd pick it up, put it down. I'd ignore it for weeks or months. I'd lose my place, go back, get sucked into editing. I'd wander into internet research, never to return. I had no deadline, nothing external to make me finish. I would lose the fire of the idea that caused me to begin the project in the first place.
Then I heard about National Novel Writing Month. The challenge was to write fifty thousand words in a month. I was doubtful. Really skeptical. After all, it took me YEARS to finish a book. How could anyone possibly do fifty thousand words in A MONTH? In a month, with a full-time job and other commitments?
But I gave it a shot.
And I learned more in that crazy month than I did in years of plinking around with the same book. Laundry piled up. Sleep was at a premium. I ate a lot of Froot Loops. But I learned the most important secrets to writing a novel, that contributed to me becoming a published writer:
Integrating writing into my daily life. NaNoWriMo requires that one keep a pace of around 1600 words a day. It became easier and easier for me to fold that into my life, to keep the momentum going.
- Suspending the dreaded inner editor. My inner editor can become quite vicious. NaNoWriMo allows me to hold her at bay for weeks, allowing me to get the skeleton of a story down on the page.
- NaNo taught me to finish. Completing a manuscript is the most important thing that a writer can do to further her career. And doing it again. And again. And I find that I learn faster when I produce more.
- My 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, DARK ORACLE (under my Alayna Williams pseudonym), was published in June 2010 by Pocket Books. My 2009 NaNoWriMo book, ROGUE ORACLE, was published in March 2011.
I use the skills I learned in NaNoWriMo in all the novels I write. I've learned to write quickly, to write daily, and to complete a story over and over. It helps me meet deadlines and keep my energy level up. At the end of NaNoWriMo, I certainly don't have a complete eighty thousand word manuscript. But I have the skeleton of a book, something that I can build upon.
And I'm no longer facing the terror of the blank page. I know that it won't be blank for long. Within a few weeks, I'll be on my way to something wonderful.
Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she's never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.
Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.
More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here:
Laura/ Alayna’s blogs
http://www.salamanderstales.blogspot.com and http://delphisdaughters.blogspot.com
She’s a proud member of Word Whores.
She’s at Facebook, and Fangs, Fur, and Fey.