DIARY OF A FIRST NOVELIST: Writing without Self-Censorship

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on November 1, 2007 0 Comments

Every year in November, an increasing number of word-intoxicated, aspring novelists, commit to the fun, the madness, the sheer exhilaration of trying to produce a novel in a month. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard of the phenomeonon known as Nanowrimo. You may have even tried it.

I sign up every year; and though I’ve never completed the requisite fifty thousand words in a month, it increases my productivity. Besides, writing, for the most part, is a lonely profession. How could I resist the temptation to join in this great communal effort, to dream and perspire and push ourselves beyond our usual limitations at the keyboard?

 In the process, I’ve become an advocate of fast unfettered writing–at least when for the first draft. There will be plenty of time for painstaking editing, and revisions later. But when it comes to the first draft, there’s nothing like a marathon, a sprint…a joyful, messy race to the finish line.



1. Because it really can be done. Frequently, we writers are under the impression that the gods of writing are stingy types. They only dole out x number of pages a day–hell, sometimes  just a measly paragraph or two, and then they move on to the next poor sucker sitting at a computer. Ask for more and you get your hand slapped and a stern lecture about the importance of gratitude. But countless writers have talked back to their fears, their indolence, and the need for a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee or a shot of tequila right now and proven otherwise,  producing terrific work at breakneck speeds.

2. Because the unconscious mind is a sprinter, not a stroller. When you write fast, you go deeper. You  tap into a power you’ll never reach if you treat every word like a bronze artifact, in need of daily polishing.

3. Because even if you have to delete the whole damn thing, you’ll have probably learned something in the process. Remember: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. You can practice slowly, and take a dozen years to write your first crappy drafts or you can just tap the writing gods on the shoulder, hold out your little porridge bowl like Oliver Twist, and humbly ask for more. Now please.

4. Because everything the scientists say about momentum is true. A body at rest remains at rest, etc…It works for writers too!

5. Because the greatest cause of “writer’s block” is the censor in the mirror.

6. Because Ray says so, and when it comes to writing, Ray is always right. Ray who?  If you really want to know, go out and buy Zen in the Art of Writing. It may not be the most technical book; it won’t teach  you how to create a winning plot, or simulate realistic dialogue. But it’s one of my favorite writing guides because it’s full of Ray Bradbury’s joy and energy. And when you come down to it, isn’t that what great writing’s all about?


Patry Francis, Books Correspondent:

Patry’s column, Diary of a First Novelist is published  bi-weekly to Gather Essentials: Books.

To learn more about Patry and her debut novel, The Liar’s Diary, visit her Website,

You can find all of Patry’s articles, Diary of a First Novelist, and Reading as a Writer at www.gather.com/patryfrancis

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About the Author ()

I worked as a waitress for twenty-five years. Then, in 2005, I sold my first novel to Dutton. THE LIAR'S DIARY as published in March, 2007. Rights have been sold in Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic. Curre

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