Monday, November 09, 2009

What Kind of Writer Are You?

All over the world, writers are taking part in National (really international) Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in November. I've done Nano before, but this time, with a whole pile of students taking part (yay to all of you), I suddenly have lots of buddies. And am seeing some amazing word counts. From one person who struggles to write a six line poem, we've got 19,000 words already! Another writer tells me she is Number 21 in the whole of Melbourne for word count (she hasn't divulged how many words yet, or buddied anyone - this is her solo journey). Of course, since classes have finished and assignments no longer loom, it seems Nano is the perfect outlet for those who might have felt constrained all year by having to write 'what the teacher wants'. (Trust me, you never want to do that with me!)

I was thinking about what Nano does to people - how it has the ability to change the way they see themselves as writers. I think we do tend to classify ourselves, and then maybe get locked into thinking, "Oh that's the way I write, so there's no point trying to change." Yet embarking on something like Nano shows over and over again that you can be different kinds of writer at different times, and locking yourself into one 'category' doesn't do you any favours. You might recognise yourself just a little in one of these:

* The Perfectionist. Nothing is ever ready to send out, because it needs another draft. These writers are likely to suffer writer's block, simply because they never live up to their own ultra-high idea of what a writer is and does. Sometimes the Perfectionist is keeping their novel in draft mode out of fear - what if I get rejected? Sometimes it's simply a weird idea of what writing should be.

* The First Drafter. This writer is so excited about finishing their novel (Draft 1) that they send it out to every publisher and agent. Without revising. Without contemplating the idea that a first draft is usually pretty awful. Most writers who do Nano realise that they are pouring out raw material and it's in the revision that you find the novel and how to make it work.

* The Cynic. This writer just 'knows' that no matter what they write, the publishing industry is such a crock that they'll never get published. It's a perfect strategic position from which to send work out and then be able to categorise the rejections as coming from 'the bean counters'.

* The Striver. This writer never gives up. Understands the industry, understands where they are in their 'apprenticeship', and keeps working at their manuscript. Sets goals, wants to always be improving.

* The Leap Frogger. This writer is a striver, but somehow takes leaps forward. Partly because of natural talent that they try to nurture and grow, but also because of an innate optimism that becomes a valuable asset. They can also fall in a big hole of disappointment over a series of rejections and give up. They try not to be too mercurial.

I'm sure there are many more. Anyone care to contribute?


Anonymous said...

Great post, Sherryl,

Hmmm...I can see bits of me in all of these at one point or another. I am hoping I am somewhere between the 'Striver' phase and the 'Leap Frogger' phase, right now. I am also in the "Oh my God, I've just discovered how much I love drawing' phase - which is proving detrimental to my novel word count..but enjoyable, nonetheless.

Nano is inspiring for sure. I get this image of all this fabulous creative energy whirring around in the world's stratosphere right now - a big buzz in the universe as people rein in their ideas and weave them into wonderful tales. I love the thought of it. Very inspiring, indeed.

Sherryl said...

I just checked and writers in Melbourne have written 5,000,000+ words to date!