As I race for the NaNoWriMo finish line, I want to share a few tips with you to help you complete your own race. Starting a book might be easy, but finishing it—and meeting your deadline!—is a struggle. Whatever writing goals you’ve set for yourself, we can meet them together, fellow writers, and here’s how.
We all feel like we should be writing well right off the bat. That what we create should be ready now, tomorrow, or maybe even yesterday. And when it isn’t, we beat ourselves up. It’s time to give yourself permission to suck.
You have good taste. It’s why you got into this whole “writing” in the first place—you’re aware of good writing when you read it. Of course, this has both an upside and a downside.
The upside: you know good writing when you read it, so you know what you want your writing to be.
The downside: you know good writing when you read it, so you know your writing has a long way to go.
At some point, your life as a writer will turn upside down.
The problems may come from health issues, from financial strain, from emotional stress, from relationship trouble, from any and every corner. It may come from the 500th rejection from an agent, from an unwelcome review or critique, or from plain old writer’s block.
Wherever it comes from, whatever turns your writing life upside down, I want you to be ready.
Over the next month, there is one rule I want you to keep as the foundation of everything you do during the month of November: Write it anyway.
I know how difficult this is. The inner critic gets vicious during NaNoWriMo, especially right around the middle of the month.
But your inner critic is a jerk. You can’t listen to it because the inner critic’s goal is not to make you a better writer. Your inner critic is trying to get you to quit.
Don’t quit. Write it anyway.
Ever had one of those weeks? The kind of week where life boils over, and even if you have time to sit down and write, you don’t have a lot of writing to give.
Sometimes, life goes nuts; when it does, it’s harder to write.
You’ve got nothing. No characters talking, no plot points singing. Your story seems dumb, your twist ending feels predictable, and you suddenly wish you’d never told anybody you were going to write because it’s gonna be humiliating when you fail.
We all have weeks like that—I know I do—and so today, I’m going to give you three steps to work through those troubled times when you can’t write at all.
English is so weird.
No, really. We only have 26 letters and a hodgepodge vocabulary that seems to make fun of itself. We use insane spelling and restrictive grammar that make no logical sense. I once heard the joke that English doesn’t “borrow” from other languages; it follows them into dark alleys, knocks them out, and takes their wallets.
Yet somehow, we use this cockamamie language to create beauty and power, to communicate multi-layered concepts and share one another’s lives. We use our broken, Frankensteinian tongue to reshape entire world views, to give hope, and to create empathy. That’s why, in spite of its flaws, I love it.
If you’re going to be a writer, you need to learn to love it, too—even when it drives you crazy.
People are complicated, and much of what makes us who we are is hidden beneath the surface. As we interact with different people, we reveal different layers of ourselves. The same is true of your character—they will express themselves differently depending on the people around them.
Who is your character when people are watching? Who is your character when they’re not?
Have you ever seen an expert do something so brilliantly that they made it look easy? Writing is like that.
Here’s the thing: when our favorite authors write, they sit down and they write and they make it look easy. We see (or imagine) their facile skill with words and phrases, and we think, I want to do that. For a while, we even feel like we can do that. But when we put words down . . . well, they just don’t come out like that.
The truth is, though, no writing is wasted—not even your worst words, the pages that will never see the light of day.
Writing is a tricky business. We throw ourselves into it, gripped by passionate ideas and the need to speak them. We persevere when haters tell us to stop, push through when our own limitations creep up like fences to be hurdled, and devour articles offering tips on how to write better, faster, and smarter.
In the middle of all that, is it any wonder that sometimes we feel like we’re crazy?
Today, we’re not going to work on the fiction side of writing. Today, we’re going to work on ourselves. Think of this as a writer’s personal-training workout.