Today’s blog should have been about bullying. I decided against it because, well… I still have some ruminating to do on the subject. Instead, we’ll tackle something very near and dear to heart.
I want you to imagine your mind is a movie studio with an unending cash flow for film production. At your behest are the greatest in cinematic artistry. The choice of film crew is always yours. In reality, the director, producers, location scouts, soundtrack, special FX department, screenwriters, and even the caterers, are all you. You, dear writer, have the best job on the planet. Your movie will be a blockbuster success, if you can just finish it. One heck of a “No duh!” moment, eh? Bear with me.
With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in the near future, I’m telling you all this for a very specific reason. Nothing is every done right the first time. Even with in depth planning, mistakes are made. NaNoWriMo is simply script treatments and dress rehearsals. During those 30 days of literary abandon, your only job is to create something new. Your minimum word count is fifty thousand words. I know, I know, that seems like a daunting task, but you’re not trying to write the next Pride and Prejudice here. Sure, your book can be molded into something with as much literary weight as the aforementioned classic, but that’s not your goal during NaNoWriMo. Your target should be completion, and quote the raven, nothing more.
The best piece of advice I ever received concerning the creative process—and this covers everything from music to writing to painting and so on—is that, until you approach the world with your ideas, everything leading up to that moment is practice. Many of you know my motto, STFU and write, and that is all I expect of myself during NaNoWriMo. November 1st comes and I settle in. My fingers start walking and my characters begin talking. Off I go into the uncertain and the unknown. I love every minute of it. Now, to think that you can finish your book in a month and have a coherent work worth publishing is like mining for gold in a sewer. You have to have beta reads, then editing, and finally, proofing. We’ve discussed this in past blogs, so I won’t bore you with repetition. Your book is going to be a hot, steaming pile when you’re done. Expect that. Period. But also know that almost everything can be cleaned up. Full disclosure here: I don’t publish even a fifth of what I write. I only deliver the best possible quality and content for sale to the masses. I know that might sound a bit hypocritical of me, considering I just told you there’s always a chance that you can publish your NaNo book, but you have to consider that I write… a lot. If I published everything, I honestly wouldn’t have time to write anything new because I would always be stuck in one edit or another. Plus, when done right, self publishing is expensive. And if I go the mainstream route, my publisher can only put out so much at one time. So, I pick and chose. It’s the nature of the journey.
Focus on what you have, and even if you break your story so bad that it’s unsalvageable, at least you can learn from your mistakes. This is practice, folks. Treat it as such. But if you never try, nothing will ever happen. Then you’re just some lazy so and so sitting in a room on their computer waiting for inspiration.
Write. It’s as simple, and as hard, as that. The most common misconception of a writer is that we do not technically work. Prove those detractors wrong, and put in the effort. Think of writing your book as if you’re filling out an application. If the content is worth hiring, you’ll get the job. Then, the real work begins.
Going back to the sage advice which I spoke of earlier, I would like to add something to it. Only you know how your story goes. If you screw up during practice, who’s going to know? Only you, my friend. Only you. Now, if you’re crazy enough to show the world your mistakes, plan on getting trounced, but I suggest you skirt that idea like a proverbial plague. When practicing, you should expect to fail. It’s part of the learning process. But people will only read what you choose to show them. So get the ideas out, then worry about the editing process. Don’t show your unedited garbage to anyone but close friends who you don’t mind having a giggle at your expense.
Writing a book is a marathon race, but NaNoWriMo is only the starter gun. You will speed through the first part of your journey at a break-neck pace (finishing your 50k word book in only thirty days), but then you’ll slow down and try to conserve energy (the editing section), and finally, you’ll stride right through the finish line to the applause of your peers and strangers alike (publishing your brand new, shiny-as-hell, manuscript).
I don’t mean to make light of tackling such a huge beast as NaNoWriMo, I only suggest you give it your best, to STFU and write. If your everday life doesn’t allow for it, I completely understand. Not everyone has time to write 1,667 words a day for thirty days straight. But can you do it? Yes, you can. Will it be perfect? Hell no. Should you try? My personal answer to that is another question: Should I breathe? I don’t have a choice in the matter. I will not allow myself a choice. To have never tried, is to never succeed. But to have made an effort, is to live.