In just one week NaNo Plotting Month (a.k.a October) begins…
*PANICS AND FREAKS OUT*
Ahem. Just had to get that out of the way.
No clue what on this blue earth I’m talkin’ about? (“Blue earth” makes so much more sense to me than “green earth”. Hello? The earth is 70% water and only like…20-40% grass. So why is the expression “what on this green earth?” hmmmm??? #Tangent) “NaNo” is short for “NaNoWriMo” which, in turn, is short of “National Novel Writing Month”. NaNo takes place every November and is an event where writers all around the world try to write 50k words in one month. It’s my favorite thing on the planet and if you want to join in you can find the website and all info HERE.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, you’re most likely trying to decide what you’ll actually be spending your entire November
crying over writing. Or, even if you’re not doing NaNo, you’ve still experienced the struggle of choosing that next writing project. All writers have to go through it. This is the writer’s life. And choosing which story to spend the next months? years? decades??? on and pour our time and energy and entire hearts into is no light matter.
Trust me, I’ve anguished over this. About a month ago I was literally losing sleep trying to decide what to write for NaNoWriMo. And a couple of years ago I made the decision to actually get serious about my writing, which meant the next book I write was the one I was going to stick with and edit and pursue publishing with. Which meant…I had to actually decide what book I was willing to work so hard on. No pressure or anything! Eheheheh…heh…*cue existential crisis*
During this time of decision, the ugly faces of Doubt and Fear like best to leap out of the shadows and poke your brain while laughing maniacally, as they do.
“What if this is a stupid story idea?” Doubt whispers.
“What if you’re unable to make it perfect?” Fear sneers.
Perfectionism runs rampant in the writing community. After all, we have these wildly amazing ideas running through our brains that we fall head-over-heels for and then when it comes to putting ideas into actual words… WHAT R WERDS? HOW DO I WRITE THIS???
I personally feel like it’s especially tricky with NaNoWriMo, because you’re choosing to write something within the span of just 30 days, while with my other stories I usually take 4-6 months and write them more carefully.
For a while, I had 3 or 4 story ideas to write for NaNo, most of them things I’ve been wanting to write for a while. But then the very same reason I’ve been putting them off this long reared its head: Because I want them to be just right. Which meant I couldn’t write any of them for NaNoWriMo especially. My NaNo novels are so messyyyy. I’m throwing them together in only 30 days after all! I can’t write my beloved story ideas now. I love them too much! They must be PERFECT. But what if I can’t make any of them perfect? What if I get it all wrong? What if I butcher the whole thing? I better not ever write any of these stories at all ‘cause I’m gonna ruin them and and and—
No, no, no, no. That’s just letting Doubt and Fear win. Which is the worst feeling ever. But we do it. I know *I* do it. I let my fear and perfectionism stop me all. the. time. How stupid is that?
If there is a story idea that you love, you should absolutely, 100% WRITE IT. After all, no one else is going to. Sure, there may be stories similar to your idea, but they won’t be your story. The way you imagined it.
Yes, the closer to your heart the story is, the more Fear will assault you, the more you’ll want it just right.
But here’s the thing: If you love a story that much, you’ll be willing to use the amount of time it takes to make it perfect. If it’s that close to your heart, you’re going to drain every last bit of energy and love you have to shaping it into the best it can be.
For a bit there, I was thinking I should just write any ol’ random thing for NaNoWriMo. Simply something that wasn’t close to my heart so I wouldn’t mind it turning into a mess.
Are you rolling your eyes and shaking your head at my nonsense? Because I’m rolling my eyes and shaking my head at my nonsense.
We should not settle on spending hours and hours and hours on a story we don’t care much about because, after all, what does it matter if it turns out messy? Noooo. What a waste of time and energy!
If we’re going to write a story, it should be BECAUSE WE LOVE IT AND WANT TO GIVE IT LIFE. We should be writing the stories that make us get up in the morning out of utter excitement to return to our storyworld and characters. The stories that make us come alive. The ones that runs through our veins and gets our hearts pumping and drives us forward every day out of sheer love for them. The ones that force us to push back the doubts and fears and stress and headaches, and just keep writing no matter what because our desire to bring these stories to life are stronger than any of those things.
JUST WRITE THE STORY IDEA THAT YOU LOVE.
I know you’ve probably heard this 7 billion times, but I’m going to say it anyway: FIRST DRAFTS DON’T SUPPOSED TO BE PERFECT.
This may sound harsh, but it needs to be said. You can’t make a first draft just right. Writing simply doesn’t work that way. Edits will always need to be made. BUT. The only way to make that story you love “just right” is to first let it exist. And the only way for it to exist is for you to WRITE IT. I saw a quote somewhere that said all first drafts have to do is exist, and that was so inspiring. Because it’s true. However messy and wrong and crazy and riddled with typos and plot holes it comes out, it doesn’t matter. Because that’s the first step to creating the story of your heart.
If you have a story you want told, then tell it. JUST DO IT.
I spent the last 7 NaNoWriMos writing a 7-book epic fantasy series and, my word, the disaster those books are. You can’t even imagine the mess I made with them. They’re something akin to letting a dozen toddlers loose in a room full of open paint cans—you know, a mess so large and unimaginable you just want to curl up and cry at the thought of trying to clean it all up. But do I regret writing each of those books? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I love that series. It’s very close to my heart. And though by the time I rewrite each book they probably won’t even resemble these first drafts, I still have a basis. Without those first drafts, I wouldn’t have a story to get “just right”. I wouldn’t know where I was going or who the characters were or what needs fixing or how to tell the actual story. Those unreadable first drafts were vital to turning my Colors of a Dragon Scale series into something worth reading one day. The first drafts will never, ever be “just right”, no matter how meticulously we write them. I wrote the first draft of Burning Thorns very slowly and carefully, and it still needs tons of edits. But the first draft HAS to be written. Don’t hold yourself back merely for perfectionism’s sake. (Sheesh, this very blog post went through 3 majorly changed drafts before it got to what you’re reading now. But you wouldn’t be reading it now if I hadn’t first messily wrote down all my thoughts.)
We HAVE to push aside the fear and just write the stories that are calling to us.
It took weeks, months perhaps, of hemming and hawing, but I finally settled on what I’m going to write for NaNo. Of course, then the doubts came. Because the more I thought about the story, and the more ideas I got, the more excited I was. Which also meant the more fearful I became of totally ruining this cool idea.
Like I said, the more we love a story, the more fearful we became.
But you know what? I’m going to write that story! And then when it’s time to revise it and I find it is a total, horrible mess and all my fears came true, well, I’ll just edit it until it is the story I want to be. But I can’t turn it into that without first writing it.
(And no, I’m not telling you what it is just yet. *CACKLES* But don’t worry, I’ll be talking alll about it come October. In fact, from now until like…Christmas, you’ll probably only be getting NaNo-themed posts from me. What can I say, I’M OBSESSED. IT’S WHO I AM. By the end of it you’re most likely going to be sick of hearing about my story and NaNo. *griiins*)
So if you’re wanting to write a story you love but are holding yourself back for fear of ruining it…STOP.
Take your pen and smite that fear back into the shadows where it belongs and WRITE THE STORY.
You won’t regret it. I promise you that.
I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite writing quote:
“I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” –Shannon Hale
Write bravely, my friends!
Tell me, O’ Writerlings, do you let fear of not getting your stories “just right” hold you back? Do you take any specific measures to violently attack that fear away and show it who’s boss??? Come, let’s band together and help each other write the stories of our hearts, fearless and unashamed!