Welcome to Week Two of “Why Am I Putting Myself Through This Insanity?” otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. We all know the tag: “November 1st–30th. Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” And when you see it put that way, your mind instantly snapped to this image of people sitting around a modern day Algonquin Round Table, drinks by everyone’s side and laptops and tables at the ready. And there you are, a brand new wordsmith ready to take the World of Letters by storm.
And, really, how hard can it be? 50,000 words in 30 days. You only need to write 1,666 words a day. Easy-peasy! Right?
Except here it is, 7 days in (as I write this), and you’re sitting on a collection of electronic scribblings amounting to around 3 to 5 thousand words, and you’re looking hard, very hard at that stats graph that said, right now, this very moment, you’re suppose to have 11,666 words in your novel, because, hey, how hard is it to do 1,666 words a day.
There are many emotions coursing through your mind and body. You want to chuck it all and post on your NaNo Author’s page, “No mas, no mas!” and hop on the X-Box and fire up that first person shooter and start gunning down everything in sight.
Or you’re holding your head in your hands trying to figure out why your story went sidewise, and why you’re struggling with this immense writer’s block.
Or you’re staring blankly at the screen, not caring that the words aren’t moving, that they aren’t doing anything, and your fingers won’t dance across the keyboard like the did the first couple of days when you possessed all this enthusiasm for your soon-to-be-earth shattering novel, and the thought that continues to swirl about in your brain is, “What ever in the world possessed me to do something this stupid?”
You want to quit. Every logical argument you can muster says you’re 5,000 words behind where you’re suppose to be, and if you want to catch up you’re gonna have to crank out 3,500 words a day to make a dent in the slush, and since you’re not Philip K. Dick with a room full of speed and the ability to type like an insane ferret, you just know you can’t ever make this thing that you wanted to create work.
You want to quit.
You know what? You shouldn’t.
Wait, let me correct that last statement: You can’t.
A little background here, first. I’ve been trying to break into publishing for decades. I started with a creative writing class in 1986, I joined a writer’s group, and I began submitting short stories the next year. Everything I sent in—maybe 7 stories, total—was rejected.
Okay, so maybe short stories isn’t my thing. So I started on a novel, one that I felt was going to be great, one that was very close to my own heart. I wrote 500 words every morning before I left for work; I kept very extensive notes; I did research to cover those areas of knowledge I didn’t have.
I got way into this story: about 250,000 words deep. And then I quit. I couldn’t take it any more. I was in way over my head, and I kept telling myself that eventually I’d get back to it—
I did. 10 years later.
I decided I was going to dust it off and do a rewrite. And I started. And I did. And I even added another 25,000 words to it.
And I quit. Again. Why? I can give you any number of reasons, but the one that hit me the hardest was this: I actually believed I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer.
And so I let my story languish. As I did the other stories I had in my head.
So, last year about this time (Nov, 2010, if you’re keeping score) I took a couple of online writing classes. And I started to get the urge to write again. I eventually hooked up with someone from my first class, and we discussed writing, we talked writing, we even wrote a few things here and there.
Then in August I received an email. It was concerning contributing a ghost story for a Halloween anthology, and I was asked if I wanted to. The how of why I got this email is irrelevant: the truth was someone wanted me to write for them. And I thought about it, and decided I wanted to try something different. I wanted to write about the supernatural, about ghosts in Indonesia.
So I did my research. I started looking at locations, I read up on the paranormal from that area, and I started writing.
After three weeks I had a story—24,000 words of a story. This was a little more than what the people who put the anthology together wanted, so I decided, “Hey, why don’t I go the self-publish route and put it out there myself?” And so I did: I set it up on Smashwords, and it was accepted for premium publication, and the story is up on Barnes & Nobles right now. Sure, I’ve only sold, as of right now, 4 copies, but you know what? I’m proud that I have.
But lets get back to that first novel . . ..
I showed it to a friend, the person I knew from my first online writing class. She looked parts of it over, and she was flabbergasted. “You have something here,” she told me. “You can’t let this die. You have to finish it.”
Here was something that has sat in limbo for 20 years and another person is telling me, “This is great. You have to finish it.” And I believe them. I want to. I want to finish it soon . . . after I’m done with my NaNo novel.
And it’s the same thing with what you have before you, on your computer. That NaNo Novel, right now it’s still at 4.000 words and change, and it’s mocking you. It’s saying, “Are you you still there? Are you going to finish me? It’s really hard to do, you know. So I won’t blame you when you leave . . .” And you want to do just that. You want to walk away.
Because it is easy. And if there’s one thing I’ve discovered it’s that walking away is the easiest thing in the world. I did it all my life with my writing and no matter how many times I told myself I was a “writer”, there was always the question in the back of my mind, “If you’re a writer, why haven’t you finished that novel, Sparky?”
And then, when I was thinking about what I wanted to say here, along comes a post from one of my Facebook buddies, and it’s a link to one of his buddies, guy by the name of Jim Butcher. If you like to read about wizards and the such, then you know him; if not, look up his buddy Harry Dresden—
Anyway, Butcher writes about the difficulty of being an aspiring author, much like the majority of us deep in the NaNo morass. And he has a lot of great words of wisdom. Jim’s also got a lot of touch love, but the one that hits me the most is this, and I paraphrase:
When aspiring authors quit writing, they Kill Their Dream. And YOU, the aspiring author, are the only one who can do that.
We all have our reasons for being in NaNo. For me, I have an idea, and this is one way to get it out. I know it’s hard; I’ve been busting my butt to writing. And I’m not just running up a word count, but like the majority of you, I’m writing.
But I also know NaNo isn’t Richard Bachman’s The Long Walk. There isn’t a half-track with solders behind you ready to put a bullet in your head if you fall behind; if you don’t make 50k come 12:01 AM on 1 December, your world will not end.
That novel though . . . do you want it to die?
There are many reasons to quit writing this week. And there’ll be a lot of reasons next week as well. And come Thanksgiving week, oi! All sorts of reasons why you should quit.
But there is always one very good reason you shouldn’t.
You are building a dream. Piece by piece, you are building a dream. And you might not “win” at the end of the month, but you have something that needs to grow. And it needs to live. And you need to finish it.
We all got dreams, and during my lifetime I’ve killed far too many of them.
Don’t make the same mistake.
Hey, is that your novel I hear calling your name? It’s probably lonely.
Go do some writing. You are going to thank yourself later.
This has been a guest blog by Ray Frazee writer of Wide Awake but Dreaming.
His about me states: At one time I thought I was this nut with a problem . . . I’m still nuts, but that’s not my problem.
I still look for work, but I’d rather write because, well–can you take Corporate America these days?
My friends keep me honest and they keep me writing. I’ve finished my latest story and I’m starting work on two novels. Trust me: my best is yet to come.
I am a Roleplaying God . . . Have Dice, Will Modify. The ass clowns I’ve gamed with in the past–and you know who you are–can simply suck it.
How’s it going to turn out? One day I’ll let you know.