November this year has rolled past at lightening speed and NaNoWriMo wasn’t as successful for me as last year. As you know, by the end of the first week I decided that writing the actual narrative of my novel was not going well as I was too distracted by family commitments and wasn’t feeling emotionally attached enough to be able to write. In the following weeks, although I wasn’t able to write every day, I was able to write more than half the novel in quite a detailed synopsis. Obviously, a synopsis wasn’t ideal NaNo material, but I did feel that it was better than not writing at all. It was still beneficial as I was able to figure out the skeleton of the novel – the action, what happens and in which order. This is usually what I struggle with.
This year’s NaNo has really made me think about my current approach to writing. I’ve started reading a book called Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose . I’ve only read the introduction so far, in which she discusses how important it is to be reading whilst you are writing. There are various views on whether one can be taught to write, but Prose believes that we learn a lot about writing just by reading a lot: this was how writers before us learnt to write. It’s not about copying, more about seeing what works well, feeling inspired and awakening the muse within ourselves.
After only the introduction I realised that I’ve not done any real reading in a long time. Sure I’ve been reading books, but I have not read any good literary novels in a long time. No wonder I’v been finding it difficult to write – how can I write as well as the writers I admire when I haven’t been reading those writers recently?
I’ve decided to start a new approach to writing – I need to stop reading books about writing, and read more real writing! I need to start reading like I did before, devouring the words, absorbing them into my mind and soul, marvelling at the craftsmanship behind each sentence. I need to read the writers I wish I could write like. For me one of those writers has always been Margaret Atwood: I find her language breathtaking, her precise yet startling imagery. My favourite novel by Atwood has to The Handmaid’s Tale, not only because I love the feminist dystopian world she creates, but actually more for how the language reads so much like poetry. Jeanette Winterson is also a writer I admire for her lyrical language. Lastly – it is always good to go back to Leila Aboulela – her writing is so real and passionate without being flowery. Since it appears that I have quite a soft spot for lyrical language, it would be a good idea to read more poetry also.
The conclusion to this year’s NaNoWriMo is that I’m not in a rush to write this novel: I’ve got the bare bones from this year, I wote down all that was inspiring me a for a long time last year – now it is all about building the muscles of the novel – which is not only hard work and dedication, but also involves me finding my own narrative voice. So until next NaNo, I will be reading like a writer and becoming the reader that I once was.
I don’t want to be just a book hoarder any more – but a language and word hoarder.