It’s weird to start writing with an idea in mind and then try to set a certain scene on paper and then have the main character turn around and say, I don’t want to do that, that’s boring. Instead, this is what I’m going to do. And then I begin to think, is he right, is this going where it’s supposed to go, but more important, where is this supposed to go? I have no clue.
After the 25,000 words mark I began to fear for my story. Halfway there, I thought, now what? There is so much yet that needs to be written. What if I can’t do it, what if the ideas will stop coming and my story will shrivel up and die? What if it was a silly feeble thing to begin with and only my enthusiasm made it bigger? And still I can’t think of giving up. It’s not an option. But now and then I find my courage faltering.
I began to look for different ways to keep me going. Whereas before I liked the silence, now I listen to music. Actually wrote a whole scene while immersed into Depeche Mode’s Should Be Higher. It’s got such an upbeat power, that song. And last weekend I got into “word races” on Skype, with a group of NaNo participants from Thailand. It was great. I wrote over 3000 words last Sunday, and that made me feel a little better. It’s good to have a little extra to fall back to when things get tough. The pep talks on the NaNo website helped as well. Here are some of my favorite lines:
“Write something true. Write something frightening. Write something close to the bone. You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here. What you heard. What you felt. What you learned. Any effort spent in that pursuit cannot be wasted. Any way that you can tell that story more truly, more vividly, more you-ly, is the right way.
So holler. Tell it loud and tell it bright and tell it slant and tell it bold. Tell it with space whales and silent films or tell it with quiet desperation or tell it with war or tell it with dragons or tell it with tall ships or tell it with divorce in the suburbs or tell it with dancing skeletons and a kraken in the wings.
Tell it fast before you get scared and silence yourself. You’ll never wish you’d held back a little more.”
Catherynne M. Valente
“Get into a writing routine. Think it’s hard to write every day during NaNo? Most professional writers keep this kind of pace all year round. Holidays, birthdays, vacations—you name it, we’re writing. The trick is making writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again.”
I also have a writing buddy who has proven to be amazing. She may be living on another continent but that doesn’t matter. It also helps that she’s been through this before and won a few years in a row. And when I complained and said my enthusiasm was on the downside she said:
“The first draft of everything is awful.
Write as if this is the last day, and that will help you.”
Her words made me feel better so I kept typing.
The NaNo rules decree that I should write no less than 1667 words a day and so far I’m doing good on the word count but not so good on the quality. And here we come to an important reality about National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo: it’s not about quality but quantity. It’s about setting down the words as they come, without thinking about the symmetry of the sentences or the beauty of the words. The words just have to come out. Rough, ugly. Some of them might shine but most of them won’t. I look to some of them with pride and others fill me with disgust. Did I really write that? I did. But it will get better. I will make them shine, all of them. I will cut and scrub and polish and shift them on the page until they sparkle. But there’s still a long way to go until that happens.
And now back to writing. Somewhere inside me there are 2000 words wanting to come out. I’d better do something about that. See you next week.