Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Consistency

Ali O'Leary, our guest blogger for this post, is a senior literature major at Patrick Henry College. Ali greatly loves writing, particularly novels, as you will read in her post; and she hopes to be published one day. In the meantime, besides writing, she enjoys drawing, superheroes, and coffee, not necessarily in that order.

Greetings, fellow writers! You are about to embark – or maybe have even already embarked – upon the great adventure of writing a story. Be it a short story or the beginning of a novel, you are in for a wonderful journey.
I myself have just come back from my own journey. The month of November has come and gone, which, if you are familiar with a fairly well-known writing challenge, is the end of National Novel Writing month (more commonly known as “NaNoWriMo”). The goal of this challenge is to write 50,000 words (technically novel-length) in a month. I have always enjoyed writing novels, but I struggle at times to be consistent with writing every day. But with this challenge, you are kind of forced to write a little every day or you risk falling dreadfully behind.
So I buckled down and I wrote every day.
At first, I thought Oh, this is easy. I totally got this. The Lord is always quick to nip that thought in the bud. I did well right up until I hit week three in November. My novel was coming to an end and I still had 20,000 more words to write.
What am I going to do?! I wailed. I am going to have to turn out a lot of fluff if I am ever going to meet my word count.
Therein, I discovered another problem of mine. I do not like to write my stories fast unless I know exactly where they are going. Otherwise, they end up being messy mixtures of fluff, some good writing, and dozens of rabbit trails that cut off abruptly in the middle of their journey. I always like to take my time, work out some intricate details, maybe add an unexpected plot twist, and then sit down and write a few hundred words or so.
But NaNoWriMo does not work that why. While my inner editor died a slow and painful death, I churned out 20,000 more words, most of which will probably be deleted when I go back through and edit my story.
“What is the point?” you may ask.
You may have heard that the only way to become a better writer is to write more. I am afraid for those of you who are hoping for a different way that this method really is the only way to get better. Like anything worth learning, you have to practice to become more accomplished. While I have always enjoyed writing, this past month of writing every day taught me something new – consistency.
For someone who is aspiring to be a published author one day, I have always struggled to write consistently. I would write for a couple days in a row, go a week or two without writing , come back and try to figure out where I left off, start writing again, get stuck for months, and then get a burst of inspiration and rush to the end. Hence, why it took me nearly five years to finish one novel. I have been slowly narrowing that gap down to about two years now, but still, I would like to be more consistent. NaNoWriMo taught me that you can’t rely on those fuzzy feelings of “inspiration” to get writing – you just have to do the hard work of sitting down every day and write whether you feel like it or not.
That lesson is what I would like to pass on to all of you. Maybe you are not planning on becoming an author one day, maybe you just like to write as a hobby, but you want to get better. Try writing every day – it does not even have to be a fictional story. It could be a blog post, a poem, a few lines in a journal, but write! You will be surprised at how much you improve over time.
May God bless you all wherever your writing journey takes you!

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