NaNoWriMo, week 2 – Doubt and Fear

Fear by Skogalfar - deviantart

Fear by Skogalfar – deviantart

After the euphoria of the first week, things began to settle down. I was dutifully putting in my 2000 words a day without looking back, moving the story forward, but something was different. Doubts started creeping in.

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.”

James Patterson

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.

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12 Responses to NaNoWriMo, week 2 – Doubt and Fear

  1. Athira says:

    Good luck with the Nanowrimo! I hope the doubt phase goes away quickly and you get a good chunk written this month. I love how you have been able to sit down and get the book written.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    25,000 plus words is indeed impressive. As you noted there will be plenty of time to polish it up. I think that many writers have doubts and make major changes as they are going along. The fact that one of your characters is talking back to you just has to be a really good sign.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      For someone who has never reached that number before, it does seem like that. I was reading the other day that an average novel actually has between 80.000 and 100.000 words. That sounds a bit scary right now but I try not to think about it. Moving on and trying to see what the next step is.

  3. Ellen says:

    It’s nice to hear about your journey on Namo, and it’s good to have you in the Namo races group – it’s all new to me this year too! And the focus on quantity is strange, but I can see how it can help the words flow. Editing in December…writing in November. Keep going!

    • Delia says:

      Thanks Ellen, it’s great having a group of people who support each other through this and I’ve enjoyed our words races immensely. The strangest thing is that most of the times, especially for the past few days, I have no idea what I’m going to write next but that doesn’t seem to matter. The words come anyway.
      It might be your first NaNo but you have already finished! Now that’s a great accomplishment.

  4. Vishy says:

    Beautiful, inspiring post, Delia. I loved all those inspirational quotes by writers. Hope the doubt phase goes away and hope the prose flows beautifully. I loved this from your post – “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.” Way to go, Delia! Wish you all the best! Happy writing!

    • Delia says:

      I’m good at giving myself pep talks, Vishy, at least for now.
      At this point it’s not about beauty but I have made my peace with it. Beauty will come next month or perhaps next year when I will take my time and rewrite it to make those words shine. 🙂
      Thanks for the nice words.

  5. Richard R. says:

    Reading NaNoWriMo posts, yours and others, I feel glad I’ve never (well, almost) tried to write. That almost was a short story, but it wasn’t very good. Good luck the rest of the way, YOU CAN DO IT.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Richard,
      Sometimes it’s hard but sometimes it’s incredibly rewarding and in the end totally worth trying. Whatever the outcome, if my story is good or bad, I am glad to have tried my hand at this. I’ve been putting it off for too long.
      Maybe the first story wasn’t very good but perhaps the second will be a little bit better – it all depends on whether you fell like trying again.
      Thanks for cheering me on.

  6. Hi Delia

    I’m so happy to hear you are doing this! I can’t remember if I told you before, but I wrote the first draft of On the Holloway Road during NaNoWriMo 2007. I had a similar experience – euphoria at first, followed by doubt. I ended up writing a note on a post-it note and putting it on the wall above my computer: “It’s my job to do the work, not judge the work”. I let go completely of any worries about quality or literariness, and just wrote. The result was writing of much higher quality than I’d been producing when I was worrying about quality. Who knew?

    I’m cheering you on remotely from here in Crete. Don’t worry about anything other than making those 2,000 words a day. Just focus on that alone and you will make it, and it’ll feel GREAT 🙂 Can’t wait to read your next update. I know your muscles must be aching now and your breath must be ragged, but keep pushing for the finish line!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Andrew,

      I had no idea you wrote On the Holloway Road during NaNo, that is incredible! What I remember is you saying the writing was more free than in A Virtual Love and that always made me curious. One more reason to push it to the top of my to-be-read-soon list.

      That sounds like a really great note to cheer you on. Letting go and not worrying about editing was liberating for me as well. It was really hard to do that before.
      Nearly there now. I can almost see the finish line, even if my story will go on past the 50k. I can feel the first week’s euphoria coming back on. 🙂

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