IN THIS ISSUE
- From the Editor’s Desk: Why I don’t write sloppy
- On The Wordling: Writing sprints and how to use them
- News & Views: 3 key resources exiled journalists need
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Happy Thursday, friends,
This week, I hit 11,500 words on my NaNoWriMo novel, which kind of blows my mind because even though I write nonfiction at this speed all the time, and I’ve written fiction fast, I’ve never written fiction this fast and have it be this good. By which I mean ready to be seen by my agent or editor.
The trick, ironically, is that I went easy on myself this time—which is very unlike me. I decided I would start writing at 11pm each night and go until 1am and see what happens. My only condition was that I’ll write a clean draft. I write clean first drafts as a journalist, why wouldn’t I with fiction? There are so many novels that get written sloppily during NaNoWriMo and are eventually abandoned because the magic is gone and now it’s just a mess that no one wants to deal with.
So while I don’t recommend that you start editing and obsessing over every single word, you can’t be lazy in your storytelling. When I did NaNoWriMo in 2021 (and won), I kept putting off the decision-making and leaving difficult scenes for later. And when later came, there was no joy left in it at all.
If you write a sloppy first draft and then have to rewrite the whole thing again from scratch, what was the point?
I’m following a simple three-step process that I’ve used (and taught) before:
Step 1: Tell the story. I do this with a scene-by-scene outline with a couple of sentences to describe each scene.
Step 2: Have it make sense with a clean first draft. Inevitably, the outline changes as I go, but it still provides a solid structure, which means I generally know where I’m going.
Step 3: Make it pretty. This is editing and polishing.
I did the outline in October, so now I’m in Step 2.
And it’s in Step 2 that journalists and content writers have a real advantage. The years of journalism and writing to deadline have been more beneficial than I realized. I told our Slack community last week that I would now treat each scene in my book as an article, with an average scene being around 1,500 words.
Once it’s been researched and reported, I can write a 1,500-word article in 1-3 hours. So I know I can manage a scene in the same timeframe. 54 scenes in a book, 2 hours a day, finished in 54 days. Easy.
(Not really, because this is still not paying work, which means I’m doing this after hours when I’ve already worked a full day. Some days, it’s really haaaaard.)
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, there will be a lot of discussion about “quality doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t have to, and if you’re a new writer or that’s just the way it works for you, go for it. There’s no one right way to do this. Just make sure you have the heart and the stubbornness to face the mess once NaNoWriMo is over and don’t do what many of us will do—which is to celebrate the 50,000-word achievement, and abandon the whole thing after.
Me, I’m a rebel. I don’t want to spend three months cleaning a draft. I hate re-doing work and I’m so easily bored, it’s (no joke) an actual problem. It’s why I love freelancing—I get to spend time in a topic, and then I get to move on to something else. I want to spend as much time as is needed in a scene (between 1-5 hours, typically), and then I want to move on to the next.
This way, when the draft is done, it’s really done. And I won’t lose confidence in my abilities when I produce drivel day after day for 30 days. I can’t speak for all writers, but I know that if I’m producing subpar work and that’s all I’m doing for a whole month, I don’t feel good about myself.
So that’s my process. I’ve let my book writing (and publishing) slide over the last few years, so I figure a solid writing habit and production schedule is the best way to dive back in.
Enjoy the issue!
Natasha Khullar Relph
Editor, The Wordling
NEW ON THE WORDLING
NaNoWriMo has officially begun. If you’re looking for resources to help you achieve this 50,000-word goal, we have a bunch.
The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. You in?
Outline your novel in a way that allows for the magic of discovery as you write.
My word count exploded once I started writing in sprints. They’ll change your life, too.
Read all our articles on the art, craft and business of writing.
NEW ON WORDLING PLUS
This month I’m adding FIVE new courses to Wordling PLUS, including 4 classic courses.
- Fix Your Broken Novel (how to get unstuck on the novel you’ve been working on for years)
- Your First Pitch (write and sell your first pitch)
- Your First Assignment (negotiate your contract like you mean it!)
- Your First Article (the nitty gritty of writing a feature article)
- Your First Website (what goes on, what stays off)
PLUS, a 14-day Skill Intensive on Managing Creative Anxiety.
NEWS & VIEWS:
The perils of journalism in exile
The free press has been under attack all over the world, including in the largest and most powerful democracies such as the US, the UK, and India. But nothing puts this fact more into context than the sheer numbers of journalists who have been facing exile from their countries due to a rise in authoritarianism and blatant attacks on journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says, in fact, that their support to exiled journalists jumped 227% in the last three years. And this year, for the first time, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is publishing “a map showing the migratory flows of journalists who are forced to flee their country for safety reasons, and the countries that host exile media.”
What do exiled journalists need in order to live and work freely? Three core aspects stand out:
1. Global community
According to Louisa Esther Mugabo, a journalist and PhD candidate, “there is little structural understanding when it comes to exile journalism as data is lacking. In a seminar with the Reuters Institute, she said there’s a need for more communities, media outlets, and resources for exiled journalists, just as JX Fund.
2. Emergency visas
“Members of the press often wait months or even years for visas; in some cases, they are forced to remain in the very country where their lives are imperiled,” writes Lucy Westcott for CPJ. “’Other times, journalists move abroad but get stuck in bureaucratic limbo, unable to leave, see their families, or work. Sometimes journalists who have faced charges or have a criminal history in their home country due to their work face difficulties at international borders, or when applying for asylum or visas.” Emergency visas would allow them to quickly and safely relocate, she says.
3. More protection
“Exile does not mean an end to threats and danger,” RSF notes. “Many Iranian refugee journalists—especially in the United Kingdom, where several prominent Iranian exile media are based—were subjected to renewed harassment and threats during Iran’s crackdown on the huge protests that followed Kurdish student Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody in September 2022. So much so that Iran International TV had to temporarily close its London offices.”
Some depressing reading here about writing and money-making, so if you’re already feeling awful, perhaps skip this section.
I’ll point out, though, that this largely does seem to be a problem concentrated in traditional publishing. That’s not to dissuade anyone from publishing traditionally—I’m still undecided—but to say that I’m not hearing the same level of frustration or concern about making a living as an author from indie-published authors.
UAE: “The conference attracts a broad range of delegates, many from the global south, and now in its 13th year continues to grow in influence and importance. This year saw professionals from 106 countries participating, with 12 countries attending for the first time, including Benin, the Czech Republic, Paraguay, and Zimbabwe. South Korea is this year’s Guest of Honor. In all, 1,050 people registered for tables in the international rights center.”
BELARUS: “It has become increasingly difficult to obtain information about developments inside Belarus, and it’s ever more dangerous for journalists to carry out their work. Among other consequences, potential sources refuse to talk with reporters even on condition of anonymity for fear of being jailed. With less news coverage, it may be easy for those outside the country to mistakenly conclude that everything is okay. It’s important for Belarusian journalists to explain to colleagues based abroad why we need to report on Belarus more.”
CANADA: “According to BookNet Canada, which compiles statistics about Canadian publishing, books by Canadian authors accounted for less than 10% of the country’s C$1.1 billion market last year. Unsurprisingly, Colleen Hoover was the bestselling author up north. But Canadian publishers are looking to change all that by promoting more homegrown talent.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin
📣 HAVE YOUR SAY!
That’s all for this week! What did you think of today’s newsletter? Reply to this email and let me know what you’d like to see more of.
And a big thank you to all 12 readers who responded last week. I love you all.