We have a wonderful line up of guest authors geared to motivate you to knock NaNoWriMo on its bum. Today’s pep talk is written by the wonderfully talented and charming Willow Wood, co-author of Bloodshot Buck.
A Pep Talk by Willow Wood
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received is this: finish the damn thing. Write the first draft in all its shitty glory like a mashed up origami paper crane you tried to make once, but you made so many mistakes that when you finally folded the last corner, the thing looked it had survived twenty thousand storms at sea. Hey, you finished it. The next paper crane will be better now you know how to reach the end result.
Surviving NaNoWriMo can feel like your drowning in twenty thousand storms, that’s for sure. And your novel sometimes feels like the most crumpled paper crane you’ve ever had to suffer looking at. November is one of the busiest times of the year, who’s bright idea was it to write a novel on top of everything else? Did I sleep once? Did I hate people less? Does my room smell like energy drink and tightly-strung nerves?
It’s okay. Right now, you’re not trying to write an academy award winning novel. Right now, you’re trying to write your ideas, your main story. You’ve got to write it first to know what it’ll really look like. It’ll win you the Booker Prize after you’ve revised the entire thing for the hundredth time by next November. But first: you’ve got to finish writing the whole thing.
Aw shit, written yourself into a hole you can’t fix? Back-track. Bail out of that mission. Have your characters turn around and say: nope, we’re going to do something else because there’s no way forward. You might not even need to fix that scene when you revise it in January—your characters arguing and bailing on the initial idea might actually turn out to be better than you remember.
Are you stuck? Fresh out of inspiration? Hurt a character. Awful things happen out of the blue all the time. Have someone trip and break their hip, or throw wine over a newly revealed painting. More dramatic? Someone gets run over. A plane crashes. Or a side-character you were holding onto too tightly fails their mission and is severely injured, or even dies. Death and injury will always shake up the protagonist’s world and, hopefully, force them to act.
Aw double shit, does it feel like the story is going absolutely nowhere? Like nothing is adding up as it should, their motives aren’t genuine, and fuck it, this is stupid? No, no it’s not. Don’t let the crippling monster of self-doubt ruin you now. You don’t know if things are adding up until you reach the end, and the first draft of everything is shit. I stand by this always. I remind myself of it constantly when I’m writing so I can worry about making my novel not-shit during the rewrite/editing stage. You are a bold writer for agreeing to meet such a tight deadline, and goddammit, if we can take selfies on the moon then you can write 50,000 words in thirty days.
Thousands of people start writing a novel. Very few finish writing a novel. The more novels you start and finish writing, the easier the process becomes and the better your writing gets. It’s true. The process of writing a novel gets easier the more drafts you complete. Measuring your skill as a writer is harder than most other pursuits, but as with everything in life, it’s a skill you hone through practice. NaNoWriMo is one of the best times to throw your inhibitions out the window and pour words onto the page until you reach the end, because if anyone can write a brilliant first draft in thirty days… Well, gold stars to them, I suppose. For the rest of us, for the majority of us, it’s an exhausting, emotional slog where we undulate between confidence and self-doubt.
Just keep going. Say it with me: the first draft of everything is shit. Your story, however? That is not shit. Your story will shine through all the broken sentences and dead-end scenes like a fractured geode, and later you will polish the heck out of it until the colours gleam.
Even if you write 50,000 words but don’t finish writing your story before the end of NaNoWriMo, keep going. Don’t let your momentum fade, don’t give up on your first draft. It needs you. It needs you to reach the end. Make notes on things you want to rewrite, but don’t fall into the trap of rewriting the opening chapters over and over again but never writing the ending even once.
Drink water now and then, have a friend cook you something decent, prioritise your time like a well-oiled military machine. Keep going whenever you can.
Look after yourself, but don’t give up on yourself. You can win NaNoWriMo.
Willow Wood is a voice actor and fantasy/science-fiction author. Her latest work is as co-author and narrator of Bloodshot Buck. She is also an editor for BigWorldNetwork, a freelance editor, and a journalist for MCM Buzz at London Comic Con.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed today’s guest post and don’t forget to check out Doug Goodman’s pep talk on the 23rd.