And So It Begins…

2017-10-31 Blog Pic 1

It’s All Hallow’s Eve, or as we in ChiWriMo like to call it,

The Day Before NaNo!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not actually ready.

Wha?

No, really.

But here’s what I’ve learned from NaNo’s past:

Don’t panic. All words count during NaNo.

What does this mean in my case? I’m a pantser, which means I write “by the seat of my pants.” As much as I’d like to be more of a planner, my personal process doesn’t seem to work that way. Yeah, I can plan. But when the rubber meets the road, I’m a pantser.

NaNo will start whether I’m ready or not.  Which brings me to:

You don’t have to “be ready.” You just have “to write.”

Write is a verb. As a matter of fact, it’s a nice, crunchy, active verb – and if you’ve read how-to articles related to writing, you’ve probably heard exhortations to use active verbs in your writing.

Very well.  I shall to write.

Or something like that.

But see, this leads me to my next point:

Rough drafts are Rough Drafts: equal parts “rough” and “draft.”

What happens when you order a draft beer?  (No, really, stay with me here.) The barkeep pulls the lever, after putting a glass below the spigot of course, and poof.  Beer shows up.

Writing is kind of like that. You put the paper or word processor (the glass) in front of the fingers (the spigot) and pull the lever.  It ain’t gotta be pretty; it’s just gotta be words.

Pretty soon, a rough draft becomes a draft of a novel. But don’t rush it.

It’s just the start of NaNo.  All you gotta do, wrimo, is write 1,667 words tomorrow.  You don’t even gotta write ‘em all in the same sitting.  You could write 500 here, 250 there, a thousand after that… Which, for you math-inclined folks, is actually 1,750.

See how that happens?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Okay, I didn’t say that, a really smart guy named Lao Tzu did.  But it’s true, nevertheless.  And even the longest novel begins with the first word.  And the English language, assuming that’s what you’re writing your novel with, has lots and lots of words.  And a great many of them can be used to begin sentences.

Just start.

To paraphrase the famous Nike ad, “Just do it,” just start writing.

You can DO this, wrimo.

WE can.

Write on.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

What To Do in the Middle

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It’s the second full week of NaNo, and we’re inching up on the halfway point.  For many of us, that means we’re hitting the middle of our manuscript and reality has set in.

What To Do in the Middle

What DO we do in the middle of a manuscript?

Well, that depends.  What makes sense for our story?

And that’s where, sometimes, our brains go spung.

Don’t Trust Boredom: It’s a Block

If we get suddenly bored with our story, that’s likely a creative block and not actual boredom.  Don’t give up!  Don’t turn on the television, or numb out on Facebook, or read a book.  Keep going.  This is the point at which our inner critic has woken up to the fact that no, we really were serious, and yeah, we’re writing this here book thing and holy crap what do you mean you think you can write a novel?  Who do you think you are?

You Are Too a Writer!

Ignore all the voices that say you’re not a writer.  Who are you kidding?  You’re a dilettante!  You never finish anything.  Who wants to read what you have to say?  All the good plots have already been written.  There are too many books out there, don’t bother. IGNORE ALL THAT.   It doesn’t matter where it came from – Mom, Dad, Kids, Uncles, Aunts, Siblings, Teachers, Bosses, the Internet…  KEEP GOING.

A writer is someone who writes.

The definition is in the action.  The action defines the definition.  If you write, you’re a writer.  Ipso facto.  (That’s just Latin fancy talk for “by that very fact or act.”)  (You can use that, if you need to, to defend your nascent writerlyness: “I’m writing, ipso facto, I’m a writer!”)

Keep Going

The only way to get to the end is to keep putting words after one another, occasionally followed by a period.  Or, if you’re me, an overabundance of exclamation points.  (No, I’m not kidding; ask my editors.)  But the story that you’re trying to tell will not reveal itself to you unless you keep writing.  Quite frequently, it will only reveal itself after a bunch of what feels like wrong turns.  You put Bob in a bar, he sees Lucille, but then you realize he’s gay and Lucille’s a black drag queen, but the biker gang from scene two is going to come in and they’re going to want to shoot Lucille and Bob can’t have that and…

Don’t be afraid to take wrong turns.  Don’t be afraid to put a porcupine in your story.  “Bob looked down and froze.  Standing not two feet in front of him was one pissed off porcupine.  What had pissed off the porcupine wasn’t immediately apparent, but Bob was damned sure the porcupine was pissed at him and he didn’t know what to do about.  It’s not like he could pick the thing up, pet it and snuggle it, and apologize.  Of course, he couldn’t really do that with his cat, either, but at least Mister Buckles didn’t stay mad for long… and the porcupine looked like it had a lot of endurance.  Bob walked forward and…”  What next?  “What next?” is your friend.  If you’re stuck in one place, drop back a couple pages and find some action, then take it another direction.  “Bob turned the corner too fast for the porcupine to see.  Good.  He lost the little spiky rodent.  But then…”

Interview your characters.  “So, Bob, it’s me, Noony.  I’m volunteering for NaNoWriMo, and I’m writing this article for Wrimos about what to do when you get stuck in your story.  So tell me, Bob, what’s it like to be a porcupine?”  “To be pointed, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  On the one claw, you’ve got all these quills.  But on the other claw, you can’t really cuddle with your loved ones, now can you?”  “Good point.  So tell me, Bob, where do you think this article should go?”  “Tell them to keep writing.  Just sit down and write what you think your story’s about.  Keep going, and add more stuff.  Write crap.  Don’t worry about grammar.  If you hear a voice in your head say it sucks, let that voice write for a while, until it runs out of things to say, then go back to writing your story.  All words count during NaNo, so put all the words down on the page.”

See?  You heard it here first, wrimos.

Bob the Porcupine Says, “Keep Writing.”

So unless you want a face full of quills, you know what to do.

Keep the faith.  Fifty thousand, we’re coming for you.

Write on!

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings
My links: Blog | Books | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Writer Wednesday – Kickin’ It Old School

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An online friend of mine pointed me to the “A Month of Letters” site and I stopped by to give it a look-see.  It looks like a lot of fun!  In February, you commit to sending correspondence by snail mail for every day that the post office sends mail (so, not Sunday or U.S. federal holiday).  Since I love snail mail, I figured I’d point this out to my fellow Wrimos.

Write on!

Twas the First of December, and All Through the House…

NaNo is over.

Right?

WRONG!

Join us this Sunday, December 6th, from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. at Geek Bar for the Thank Goodness It’s Over Afterparty!

Plus, keep your eyes on this site for more content – I’ve got an interview with one of our homegrown Chiwrimos, an interview with the founder of Geek Bar, and some more stuff during the month of December.  I’ll also be posting about what to do in the off-season, and you’ll get emails from NaNo HQ on that very topic, too!

But for now, coffee.  Because, it’s December 1 and I should probably go do some chores and find my family under the mountain of laundry.  And the dog.  Here, Fido!

Sunday Morning Thoughts As Week Two Begins

It’s Week Two.  Reality has started to set in.  We get a look at our schedule and think, was I nuts?  Am I even on the right track?

Keep going.

But I’m not a novelist! I’m not even a NaNoist.  How was I kidding?  This is silly.  I don’t even know where my story is going!

Keep going.

  • But Thanksgiving is coming.
  • I have kids and I can’t concentrate with them underfoot.  I’ll be a bad parent!
  • I’m too busy at work.
  • I’m not a novelist.
  • This is goofy.  Fifty thousand words of what?
  • Is this any good?
  • Will it sell?
  • Who am I kidding?

Keep going.

The secret to NaNo, if there is a secret, is that the way to write a novel is to write a novel.  The only way to do that, is to put words in front of each other until you’re ready to type “the end.”

NaNo teaches us to experiment.

The idea of a rough draft is just that: it’s rough.  It’s not perfect.  It’s not something we will run out and slap up on the internet.  No secret cabal is out to take your baby novel and throw it to the wolves of harsh critique.  This is a draft.  A draft is supposed to be rough.

You can’t edit what you ain’t writ.

In order to get to the final draft, you have to have a draft to edit.  You can’t have a draft to edit unless you write one.  So tell your inner critic you’ll buy them bourbon, or chocolate, or whatever bribe works, but right now, you’re writing.

Keep going.

One thing I hear a lot of around now is, “where are we supposed to be?”  I ask, “What do you mean?” “Number!  How many words am I supposed to have?”

Ignore the number and keep going.

Staring at the number is like trying to lose weight while living on a scale.  It doesn’t work.  It just makes us nuts.  Don’t worry about word count.  Don’t even worry about NaNo.  Just make a play-date with you and your baby novel.  Spend time with it.  Name it.  Sing a lullaby to it.  “Baby, you and me are gonna go places | Oh the places we’ll go | Baby, just you and me and a keyboard makes three | Baby you’re comin’ home with me!” ~la la la~

How do you get to the finish line?

Keep going.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

SEALED BY FIRE, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
Book 1 EMERALD FIRE
Book 2, EMERALD KEEP
Other Fun Stuff:
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

NaNo – Years I’ve Won, Years I’ve Lost – A Retrospective

I’ve been doing NaNo for a few years now (six) and I’ve won a few times (four).  I don’t consider the two years where I didn’t hit goal to be “losses.”  If I’ve learned anything in this business, it’s to keep writing.  All words count during NaNo.

We learn from the years we win NaNo.

The years where we make it across the finish line teach us that hard work pays off and that we can do it, we can write the first draft of a novel.  We also learn that non-writers don’t understand.  “So, you’ve written fifty thousand words.  Yeah, but are they any good?” is said with a sly kind of smile, as though the questioner thinks they’ve delivered a witty comeback to our, “I won NaNo!”  They haven’t.  The point is, it’s a rough draft.  It’s not supposed to be polished.

We learn from the years we don’t win NaNo.

Sometimes, we learn more from the years we don’t hit the mark than the years we do.  One of the years I didn’t win, it was because I had a huge family gathering to attend over Thanksgiving.  I figured I could bang out the remaining ten thousand words in the two days when I got back, a Monday and a Tuesday.  I had time after work both evenings and even wrote it into my calendar.

Then work happened.

I won’t bore you with the gory details, but I worked for a very toxic boss (for whom I thankfully no longer work) and he made those two days into a walking hell.  By the time I left the office, near tears each evening, I didn’t want to do anything, much less touch my fledgling novel.  Disappointed and discouraged, I watched midnight on the 30th come and go and never got my winner’s badge that year.

An odd thing happened, though.  The next year, I came out of the gate so strong that I would have bowled over anything standing in my way.  I had found a new job, was on my way to becoming a “real” author (meaning I had a publishing contract), and I felt like I finally knew what I was doing.  When I crossed that finish line, it felt differently than before.  This time, I was aware of the struggle it took to get there.

I realized my NaNo “failure” wasn’t a failure at all.

We talk a lot about how NaNo teaches us to write a draft of a novel.  What is less talked-about is the fact that NaNo teaches us how to fit writing into our lives – and I have yet to meet someone whose life isn’t already full of all the things.

Writing is a difficult pursuit because it’s, in essence, solitary.  Humans by nature are social animals, be they extroverts or introverts.  Sure, the appearance of socializing looks different for different people, but we all need human contact.  We need to create support systems around ourselves that sustain and nurture us, and we need to limit toxic inputs in order to sustain our creativity.

So yeah, in a way, NaNo helped me quit that toxic job.  I didn’t do it immediately, and I had some bumps along the road between then and now.  But overall, it made me stronger – and a better writer.

And that’s my “key takeaway” as they say in business.  (And the language crafters among you, Dear Reader, are cringing at my use of jargon.)  Keep writing.  Let writing be a part of your life, and don’t let other things that are lower on the priority list get in its way. Of course family is important, and if you work a job outside the home then you need to continue to do so.  But evaluate the things on which you spend your time, and the people with whom you spend it – do they support you and your goals?

If not, maybe it’s time to reconsider what the priorities are and recommit to getting to fifty thousand.

We can DO this.

Write on!

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

SEALED BY FIRE, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
Book 1 EMERALD FIRE
Book 2, EMERALD KEEP
Other Fun Stuff:
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

What To Do In the Off-Season

Welcome to the dreaded February, the month when sub-zero temperatures attack and there’s no NaNo to sustain us.  Whatever shall we do?

For those of you playing the home game, WE WRITE! (Seriously, you didn’t see that one coming???)

All kidding aside, the off months are tough because we don’t have the collective sturm und drang of thousands of participants, pounding away at their keyboards with their hats askew, banging out 50,000 words or more of their novel.

Don’t despair, Dear Chiwrimo!  We have resources!

First, there are two mid-year events called Camp NaNo – one in April, and one in July.  We even have write-ins planned for both, one on April 11th, and one on July 18th.  The links jump you to our Facebook event pages.

Which is a nice segue into my next resource, our Facebook group.  (Like how I did that, all transitiony and stuff?)  Our little Facebook group has grown to over 800 members!  (Thank you, you awesome Chiwrimos, you!)  If you haven’t joined yet, what are you waiting for?  Visit today and join the conversation – there’s humor, and impromptu writeins, and ideas, and support – everything a growing writer needs to take on the New York Times Bestseller List!

We also have a Twitter stream, @Chiwrimo.  If you like brief, and you like it in 140 characters or less, then this is your oyster.

And finally, drum roll please – I found the A-Z Blog Challenge last year while poking around on NaNoWriMo.org (you know, world headquarters?) for ideas on what to do next.  It’s a month-long challenge where writers post a blog a day for every day except Sunday, and the only stipulation is you must follow the alphabet theme – so, day 1 is A, day 2 is B, and so on.  If this sounds fun, point your browser over there – 2015 signups are now open.  Be sure to link to your blog in the comments here so we can track our local writers and support each other.

Write on!

 

– 

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
 
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
**Coming Soon!** Watch for Book 3, CAT’S CRADLE, out Summer 2015!
The Persis Chronicles:
Book 1 EMERALD FIRE
**Coming Soon!** Watch for Book 2, EMERALD KEEP, out April 2015! 
The Keepsake Tour begins March 8th. 
 
Other Fun Stuff:
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora 
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

If You Didn’t “Win” NaNo, Don’t Despair. It Doesn’t Mean You’ve “Failed”

I’ve met many people who tell me, “Oh, I failed NaNo. I only got 13,000 words.”

I know writers who would give their eye teeth to have written 13,000 words, 8,000 words, or even just words! Just because you didn’t hit that magic number of 50,000, doesn’t mean you should pack up your keyboard and throw away your word processing software. It doesn’t mean you should go back to Twitter, home of the brief. It just means it’s time to regroup and see where you are. Here are some truths:

1. Writing takes practice. This means, the more you do it, the better you get.

2. Babe Ruth, the baseball player often quoted for his number of home runs, also held a record for strikeouts – the point being, the more times you’re at bat, the more chances of getting a home run. Show up at the page, day in and day out, and you will achieve the goals you set for yourself.

3. You had the courage to start. Don’t underestimate that. Big things come from small things. Give yourself props for having the courage to take a chance and begin something.

4. Now that you’ve tried it, you don’t have to begin from scratch. Yes, you will write new words. But that’s not what I mean. Now you know what NaNo’s all about. This information is power. Maybe you can go into next year with some prep-work ahead of time. Maybe you can spend the next year learning to plot, or develop characters, or fart around with some story communities and see how others do it.

Above all, keep at it. The words you wrote in November are new words that never before saw the light of day. If it weren’t for you, they wouldn’t exist. And that, truly, is magical.

So rest on that, writer. You did it. You started.

And that means, dear writer, that you ARE a writer.

You are a writer.

You ARE a writer.

So go write!

Write on!

 

A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 6 events, 4 wins
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  - E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup

So I Have a Novel Draft. Now What?

Now I have a novel draft. What do I do?

November is over and some of us feel a sense of let-down; like the intensity is gone and we don’t know what to do next. If this is you, you’re not alone. So what do you do, now that you have this baby novel manuscript? What do you DO with it?

Here are a few thoughts about life after NaNo:

You’ve developed a habit of writing. Keep it going. Just because NaNo is over, keep the discipline alive by working on a new idea. Whether your goal, like Hemingway’s, is to write 500 words a day, or Julia Cameron’s 1,000 words a day, keep working on something and use that discipline to change your life for the better.

Some people joke that December is for editing. Others really mean it and dive head-first into their NaNo novel, only to emerge shell-shocked. How can things be this disconnected? This frenzied? This chaotic?

Be gentle. If this is your first time writing a complete rough draft, you need to remember what an accomplishment that is. No one writes the great American novel on the first pass. Even the pros edit. So as you’re looking at this nascent novel, let’s take a step back and have a cup of soothing tea.

First, look at your draft with gentleness. Don’t start cutting and burning large swaths of this savanna. For one thing, years from now, it will matter to you what your first draft looked like. Of course your final product will look different than the rough draft. But just as there’s only ever one first kiss, there’s only ever one first draft. Safeguard it and save it with a new title, something like “Novel title, First draft.” Put that somewhere safe.

It should go without saying, BACKUP YOUR FILES.

No, really. If you haven’t done a backup in the last seven days, stop reading and go do that now. You can come back to read after you’ve finished.

Next, set your manuscript aside for a couple weeks. Experts recommend going away from a piece and coming back to it later, after it’s had a chance to breathe a bit. You’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes.

Consider rewriting from scratch, not just tweaking the existing piece. Author and instructor Josip Novakovich advocates exactly this technique in his book, Fiction Writer’s Workshop. Retell the story, from scratch, and see how much differently it comes off the keyboard or pen the second time around. Now you know the shape of the story, the twists and turns of your plot, and how to get to the ending.

A word of caution. Some writers assume that they need another pair of eyes on their work pretty much right after they write it. Some authors even recommend that. “Have another person read and critique your work,” they say. “It’ll make you a better writer.” That’s hogwash.  Practice is what makes you a better writer. Learning good techniques makes you a better writer. Not all critique groups will teach you those two things – good skills and how to edit – so view critique groups with caution. Do the people you’re sharing your work with know how to handle a first draft? Do they read and like your genre? Are they interested in helping you get, and stay, on the page; or is it a thinly veiled arena for competition and one-ups-manship? Use caution when sharing your work with other people. Even well-meaning friends can derail us, and strangers have no investment in our future. Don’t assume that just because someone offers to critique your work, that they are qualified to do so.

That said, it’s worth finding some trusted beta readers and critique partners (sometimes called in the community betas and CPs). You can poke around online at some of the online writing communities, look around the boards, and check out Meetup for some in-person groups in your area. My suggestion is, however, don’t submit your work immediately. Go to the group a few times, listen to how the critiques are done, before you give your baby manuscript to them for review. If you sense something is off, trust that sense and don’t assume “writers should just take it with a grain of salt.” That’s not true. We are sensitive creatures, and that sensitivity is what makes us effective writers. We must respect that sensitivity and not allow others to trample us in the name of literary excellence. Many a newbie writer has been silenced this way. Don’t let it happen to you.

If you haven’t read No Plot, No Problem, by NaNoWriMo’s founder Chris Baty, now is the time. Now that you’ve had a taste of NaNo and the madness of writing for 30 days and nights of literary abandon, go to the horse’s mouth to see what – and how – it all began.

Above all, realize that you’ve done something few people ever accomplish: you have in your hot little hands the first draft of a novel. This is the beginning of great things!

 

A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 6 events, 4 wins
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  - E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup

The Wall

moar cat 2

Week 2. This is the hardest part of NaNoWriMo.  We’ve started, but the end seems so far away.  If your motivation is flagging, this post is for you.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
–Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and artist

We start NaNo for a whole host of reasons.  We want to be writers.  We want to tell a story. We may or may not have a story to tell, but we decide, for many and varied reasons, to give it a shot.

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
–Albert Einstein

Then reality sets in.  “What the hell were we thinking, doing this?  We must be nuts/crazy/full of hubris.”  The boomerang of the inner critic’s voice comes back around and smacks us square between the eyes and we wonder who the hell we ever thought we were, trying to write a novel.  After all, what do we have to say?  What made us think we could do this?  After all, all the stories are told already, all the novels written, and the deck is stacked against us.  Besides, the new television shows are on, or there are cats on Facebook to look for.  Anything but sit our butts in a chair and open our manuscript.

A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
–B.F. Skinner

Runners call this The Wall.  It’s sneaky.  The Wall doesn’t hit in the beginning.  No, in the beginning, if we can get started, there’s the momentum of the beginning to sustain us.  We can do it, we think.  After all, look at all these other people who are doing it too.  Why not us?  No, that’s not The Wall.  The Wall comes after the running’s been going on for a while.  No one knows exactly when it will hit, but it will hit.  We hit the equivalent of a solid brick wall that blanks out the horizon and stops us in our tracks.

We want to give up.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
–Confucius

Here’s a couple simple truths, as you’re staring at The Wall:

  1. The Wall is a liar.  It will tell you there’s no use.  There’s no point.  Worse, there’s no Story.
  2. The Wall happens to all writers, at some point in their writing life.  Pros, amateurs, beginners, it doesn’t matter.  The Wall is an equal opportunity phenomenon.
  3. Doubt is the sister to The Wall.  So is the Inner Critic.
  4. The Wall  will try and make us stop writing, stop telling our Story, stop believing that we can do it.
  5. The only cure for The Wall is to write.  One word at a time.  Keep going.

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
–Newt Gingrich

The job description is “writer.”  It’s not “feel good and have fun all the time with the words flowing.”  It’s not “brilliant bestseller, everything produced is worth selling to the highest bidder.”  It’s not “perfect speller and crafter of amazingly perfect prose the first time out the gate.”  A writer is one who writes, that is, puts words in front of each other.  There’s not a lot of glamour in that, or flashing lights, or anything other than us, our pen or keyboard, and Story.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
–Winston Churchill

The way to keep going varies by writer.  Here are some suggestions to try.

  • Interview your characters.  Start with the main character, and ask them questions as though you were hiring them for a job.
  • Make a list of everything in the setting of the scene you’re writing.  If it’s a room, imagine you’re standing at the door and look left, ahead, right, down, up, and immediately behind yourself.  List everything you see.  What color is the paint on the wall? Carpet or hardwood?  Furniture?  What’s on top of the furniture?  Are there pets?  Pet fur?  Pet food?  No pets?  How come?
  • Write a scene of a brand new character coming into that setting for the first time, having just bought the place from your characters.  What do they see?  How do they interact with the place?
  • Kill off one of your characters.  What happens then?  Alternatively, write a sex scene with a character, or have them receive an unexpected and large sum of money.  What happens next?
  • Sit down with your manuscript.  Write or type, “The truth is, …” and finish that thought.

All words count during NaNo.  Write about being stuck.  What’s stopping you?  Why do you feel blocked?  Put it on the page.  Put all of it on the page.  Put 1,667 words of it on the page.

That’s all it is.  Words on a page.  They don’t have to be the best words ever, they just have to be words – they don’t even have to be spelled correctly.  This is a rough draft.  If you want, challenge yourself to write the worst first draft ever in the history of letters.

But above all, write.  You will care, come December, that you kept going.

Trust the words, Dear Writer.  Trust NaNo.  Trust that writing is right.  Trust that you can do it.

Because, you can do it.

Write on.

A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 5 events, 3 wins

National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter
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