NaNoWriMo Revelation

So, it’s Day 12 of NaNoWriMo. We’re almost half way through. Right now, I’m about 20,000 words in and I’m going to type more tonight. After I bake a cake.

And I realized something. As I churned those words out every night (well, I missed two days last week), something dawned on me with a vivid, piss yellow light.

I suck. Big time.

It is hypnotizing how awful these sentences are. I stare at those words and think ‘Wow. I created that.’ But instead of the snuggly pride that one feels when they look at their newborn baby, I felt vaguely nauseated.

Holy Hell.

It’s painful. I look at the words on my screen and I’m like ‘Sweet Baby Jesus in a Manger, could this be any worse?’ and then I go and defy my own expectations.

But that’s not the end.

I’ve been tempted to curl up in a fetal ball and drown in my salty tears, but that would accomplish nothing.

Just because I suck now doesn’t mean I’ll always suck.

And that’s the beautiful things about writing.

You can get better.

Me, I need to keep practicing. I need to keep writing. I need to exercise these lazy writer muscles, work them until they’re used to the effort.

And I need to read more. By beholding, you become changed. I don’t have the time really, but I’m going to have to squeeze the pulpy lemon that’s my day and keep squeezing until more juicy time comes out.

It’s not fun admitting that I’m awful at something I’ve defined myself by for over fifteen years now.

But one good thing about sucking so badly? It can only get better, right?

When Your Characters Speak to You

I swear, I’m not crazy.

But my characters speak to me. This is usually a good thing, because you want to know your character’s story and they’re the best source for information. You want to know how they view themselves, how they got to where they are and where they’re trying to go.

But sometimes it can be troublesome.

For my current WIP, I decided months ago that I was going to have one narrator. I outlined, planned the necessary scenes (because I’m too old to be a pantser–I forget stuff), researched and thought I was good to go for NaNo.

Then, I kid you not, as I tried to get to sleep on October 31st/November 1, another character started speaking to me.

So now, I have two narrators. Just like that.

This new narrator is a wild card. They were going to be introduced much later on down the line, and even then, I was still debating if they needed their own POV. So, they’re not nearly as fleshed out as my original narrator.

But this narrator has an extremely strong voice. Stronger than my first narrator. I couldn’t resist listening even if I wanted to. And I didn’t.

So now, on the one hand, I’m slightly stressed. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my new narrator this early in the story. I had some back story, but it wasn’t fully fleshed out.

It’s kind of like groping around a familiar room in the dark. I have a good idea of where everything is, but I can’t see details.

On the other hand, I’m so intrigued. My stomach is fluttering and that lets me know I’ve hit on something good. Funny enough, my story has more direction now, and I’ve been able to figure some things plot wise that were bugging me.

So, it’s more work. I also have to do some research I didn’t anticipate starting for several months. Yay.

However, I think I’m up to it. When I get the kiddos down for their nap (ha ha!), I’m going to start brainstorming some scenes for this new narrator.

It’s more work, but it’s not a waste of time. And I can say this is a good development.

Thanks for listening, loves. Until next time.

The Resistance

NaNoWriMo starts in less than six hours.

And I’m silently panicking.

The Resistance has set in.

It’s a knot in my gut, an inability to focus and a chill down my spine.

It’s a voice screaming at me constantly. It asks questions that strike too close to the bone.

What if you can’t do it?

What if you write this manuscript and realize you hate it?

What if no one else likes your book?

Why should anyone care about your characters and their stories?

Just who do you think you are?

That last question bothers me the most.

Who do I think I am, to think that I could write books people would want to read? To think that I could become a successful novelist?

You’re being selfish. You’re taking time away from your husband and kids to follow this vanity project.

And this one brings up feelings of guilt and shame. Never mind that my husband has supported me from day one. Never mind that I’m doing this so I can show my children that it’s possible to follow their dreams.

The Resistance is loud and obnoxious. It doesn’t need to make sense. It only needs to be convincing. And it only needs to drown out that still, small voice that keeps whispering ‘You can do it. Just trust. One step at a time.’

I know what’s happening on a intellectual level. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m not going to give up. I will write my first draft in November. And I will make it to 50 000 words. Maybe more.

But I’ll also have to keep fighting The Resistance. It won’t ever go away. If you’ve struggled with depression, you know what I mean.

But fighting The Resistance makes you stronger.

Don’t give up, loves. Never give in. Find that still, small voice and cling to the words it tells you, no matter what.

It won’t be easy. And I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

Until next time.

My New Obsession

I’m obsessed with Louboutins. I really hope I can purchase a pair before they’re completely out of vogue. Without having to sell a kidney. Or my first born. Because I like him.

But my new obsession is writing flash fiction. Those are stories that are less than 1000 words.

A few days ago, I told you about a story I wrote back in college that I was going to redo for the Write to Done contest. Well, I decided to leave it alone. No matter how I tried to tweak it, it just wasn’t working. I didn’t want to force that story to ‘act right’ and possibly ruin it in the process.

So I wrote a new one. And I was scared.

Confession: since I wrote the above mentioned story over six years ago, I hadn’t written *any* fiction until this week.

I know. It’s awful. I felt ashamed and I almost gave up.

But I took a deep breath. Shrugged, said ‘Okay’, and just started writing.

Over an hour later, after several painful false starts and simmering frustration, I had an idea that I liked.

I got it down, ignoring the word count for the time being. When I finished, I sighed. I did it.

And now came the hard part. Because let’s keep it real. Writing the story isn’t hard. It’s the editing that will kill you. I spent 20 minutes writing that story. Then I spent nearly an hour afterwards and an hour the following nights editing it.

The word limit for the contest is 500 words, including the title. I had almost 800, excluding title.

The last time I wrote fiction, I hated editing. I thought each word was sacred because they came from me. Kind of like children. It really hurt to get rid of them, even if I knew the story was bloated.

But this time was different. Though I didn’t write fiction during those years, I didn’t stop writing. Blog posts, pieces for businesses, a few essays and the like. It may not have been regular, but the important thing is, I never stopped. And because I wasn’t personally attached to those words, I had little problem cutting them when necessary. As long as the main point was preserved, I was happy.

So when it came to this story, I found myself applying the same critical eye. Because I had little wiggle room, every single word had to serve a purpose. If it wasn’t earning its keep, I tossed it.

I got rid of an entire character. Cut several paragraphs. A touching metaphor didn’t make the cut (these metaphors will be my undoing, I swear).

Yeah, it hurt. Every time I highlighted a group of words and hit delete, I panicked. I had to step away a few times because I thought I was cutting too much meat away (that’s a real danger). Over the next few nights, I added a few words, subtracted more, moved things around, just to make sure I was telling the best story I could in 500 words.

It felt good. I really enjoyed it, truth be told. At one point, I spent 15 minutes trying to decide if ‘the’ could stay where it was in a sentence. I kept it, but changed the structure of that sentence.

There’s something liberating about deciding if you really need 10 words to say something, or if you could say it using 8. Or, even better, if you could make a deeper impact using only 5. It’s pushing yourself to the brink of your story telling abilities. And surpassing your limit.

I’ll let this story rest for the next month, then pick it up again in December and finish it up before submitting it. Maybe when I read it again, I’ll hate it. Yikes. I really hope not.

Have you tried flash fiction? If you have, do you like it? Hate it? If you haven’t tried it, go for it. The deets for the Write to Done contest are here.

NaNoWriMo approaches. I’m super nervous. My stomach is filled with butterflies. I need to relax.

Until next time, loves.

Surprise, Surprise!

Over the past week, I did something I’ve been trying to do for several months now. Without even realizing it.

I’ve started writing every day.

You hear that the best writers write every day. And I know this advice isn’t for every one. But I suspect it works for most of us.

If you’re passionate about something, you make time for it every day.

For the past week, I’ve been writing posts for this blog, finishing my long hand outlines for my NaNoWriMo novel and working on my short story for the Write To Done contest (more on that next time).

I’m not boasting, I’m not trying to sound smug. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of myself.

Because at the end of the day, I stopped think about what I wanted to do, I stopped talking about how cool it would be to do it and I just…did it.

It’s not perfect. It’s definitely writing in the cracks. Right now, I’m writing this post as my middle child keeps whining to get his older brother in trouble. I think I can ignore him long enough to get this post done.

(Oh wait, I have to get up and separate them now…)

But the point is, I accomplished a goal that seemed elusive. There was no ‘Hallelujah’ chorus and adoring angels didn’t come spilling out the sky.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not that deep. And that’s refreshing. Because that means following my dream is not a Herculean task.

I didn’t have to wait until I was getting a good night’s sleep every night, or to feel 110% confident about my talent as a writer, or for Mercury to travel in retrograde while Saturn is ascending.

I just did it. There’s no magic, no secret formula.

If you find yourself constantly talking about what you want to do, or thinking obsessively about it, stop.

And just do it.

Identify the most basic step you need start with, shrug and say ‘Okay’.

Because when you treat it like an ordinary task, there’s no need to orchestrate a big production around it, and you’ll feel less anxious.

And before you know it, you’ll be doing it. You’ll be taking small, but definite steps towards your dream.

Try it, loves. See what happens.

Until next time.

The Ghost of Awful Writing Past

So, Write to Done is running a flash fiction contest until December 15. The full details are here, and the first prize is $500. Just in time for last minute Christmas shopping.

When the notice popped up in my inbox, I was excited. I missed the first one, which ended on October 15, so I was happy to have another chance.

I had a short story in mind, one I wrote in college for a Creative Writing class. From what I remembered, it was pretty good. I got a lot of positive feedback from my classmates. The teacher didn’t really have much critique for it, either. Back then, I was buoyant. Exhilarated, even. I was so nervous about reading it to the class, and what do you know? They loved it! You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t the next Toni Morrison.

So, I decided I would take these last few days before NaNoWriMo to brush it up. It wouldn’t take much work and it would be a welcome trip down memory lane. I could just relax and bask in the glow of my talent.

I opened it last night, feeling pretty good about myself. This story, though written six years ago, was a reminder that I was cut out for this writing thing. I started reading, expectant.

After the first few lines, I could have sworn I heard a record scratch.

It was bad. Like, pretty awful. I’m talking about overwrought metaphors (which I thought was poetic and lyrical back then), similes that didn’t make a lick of sense and adverbs in almost every sentence.  I felt like I just did the Ice Bucket Challenge during one of these autumn nights.

I was discouraged. People told me it was good when, well, it wasn’t. But as I thought back, I realized that my Creative Writing class was just that–a class. We didn’t know much about what separates lazy writing from tight, yet beautiful prose. Yeah, the teacher didn’t have much critique for it, but come to think of it, she didn’t say much good about it either. I think she was trying to spare my feelings. I went to bed feeling bummed. And very humbled.

But a good night’s sleep (well, as good as it gets with a teething baby) brings clarity. I realized that being able to identify the faults in this short story means that I’ve grown as a writer. I looked at it again and saw some good among the bad. The bones, the premise and the progression of the story, were alright. But the execution itself was…painful. There’s no getting around it.

I’m still going to work on it and get it ready for the contest. I’ve cut it down from about 1300 words down to 800. Over the next few days, I’m going to get it down to the 500 word limit. Then those two weeks between the end of NaNoWriMo and the contest deadline, I’m work on it some more. I gotta make sure it’s glowing before I submit it.

So the moral of this story is this: growing as a writer hurts. It’s embarrassing to look at a previous piece of work, work that you thought was sublime, and realize that it’s very amateurish at best. But the real challenge comes in not getting discouraged, moving past that harsh truth and keep working to improve.

Ok, loves, I have mucho editing to take care of. Talk to you soon 🙂