Writing Day #2

I’m setting myself up for failure.

Proclaiming publicly my self-inflicted goal of finishing a first draft of a novel within a three-month timeframe in order to hold myself accountable was a bit of an impromptu decision. A decision that I decided last week was stupid. This became apparent midway through last week when I had failed to write a single word. Granted, my project didn’t officially begin until yesterday, but last week was my primer week. My week to decide which of the unfinished manuscripts stuck in my files I most wanted to finish. Which had the most promise, the most feasible plot to unravel in three months, and above all, which held the most magic? Which one was I most excited by?

The answer? All of them. And none of them.

They all hold a little glimmer of something I want to explore. But they all need a lot of work. I mean, a lot.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Wait, yes I do. I was hoping to come across a forgotten manuscript whose story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go, a protagonist who jumped off the page, a sculpted plot that only needed a little nip here and a tuck there and voila — on to editing and revising! At the very least, I wanted to find a gem that, though it may be rough, was starting to show facets of sparkle between smudges of ink.

I became overwhelmed. I found three or four manuscripts that pulled at me but still needed a lot of work. I could see various viewpoints and protagonists and twists and themes for each of them. I got so muddled at one point that I began interweaving a couple of stories together, pulling from them the parts I liked best and melding them together. That didn’t work. I was giving up, convincing myself that nothing I ever attempted was halfway decent to begin with when I pulled out the story I began during my first go-round with NaNoWriMo.

It’s the one.

I’ll be honest. I was hoping to focus on a fun, breezy middle grade or YA for this project of mine. Something that didn’t require a lot of research. Something straightforward, current, maybe humorous. The only thing the story I chose has in common with the story I wanted to choose is that it is YA. It’s a historical fiction novel set against the backdrop of post-WWII New York City. It’s a love story, a mystery and a coming of age story. In my head it has undertones of noir fiction, but “the first draft of anything is shit”, so I’m fully aware that this remains mostly in my head. As it turns out, this is great news to my writerly self, a bit of an epiphany, because it used to be that I wasn’t okay with this. I didn’t want to write shit, I wanted to write like all the greats. I’m relinquishing my need for control (and thus moving at a snail’s pace) and placing stock in the fact that nuances, layers and textures (even historical accuracy) can be added later. Getting it down is the first step.

Ask the right questions, and get it down.

Just Begin.

I’m already loving this journey.

*If you decide to partake in my little project, please add your updates and/or links to your blog in the comments!

 

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Let’s write a novel

Laptop-with-blank-notepad

I’m writing a novel. I’ve been writing a novel for six years now. multiple novels. Some I’ve abandoned. Some I’ve stuck away with the intention of getting back to…when I can find the time.

And therein lies the problem. I’m not going to ever find the time. The time has to be created.

The last time I did NaNoWriMo Mia was two years old. The November after that I was working a miserable job that sucked the energy out of me. the November after that I was pregnant and sick. The November after that I had twin babies. We also took Mia to New York the week before Thanksgiving and we had family visiting the week of Thanksgiving, so I didn’t even attempt it. And I just spaced it last November (I also had one-year-old twins but I can’t play the twin card forever).

Okay, stop. That right there is why I have multiple novels started but not one full-length manuscript to speak of. Excuses. And, sure, some of them are good excuses but no matter which way I look at them, they’re still excuses.

I’m always going to feel pulled in twenty different directions. I’m always going to feel guilty for carving out time for writing. There will always be something more pressing, more demanding, more obligatory. So where does passion fall in line?

That one month that I did NaNoWriMo was probably the most productive I’ve ever been in terms of getting a full-length novel on paper. No matter the mess of a draft I was creating, it was a draft with fully realized characters, a solid plot, emerging subplots and themes…Okay, it probably (definitely) didn’t have all of these, but it was on its way to having all of them. They were all faintly sketched between the words I strung together when I wrote without over-thinking it. I had a daily goal, and I met that goal, and it didn’t matter that my words were clumsy, my plot haphazard, my characters two-dimensional. I had faith in the process of writing, in just getting the idea down; that “the first draft of anything is shit” (Hemingway), but the only way to the end — and THE END — is to get through it. I don’t think I’m alone when I admit that one of my biggest obstacles as a writer is losing faith in myself when that momentum of the beginning slides into doubt and frustration by the middle.

And now, finally, I am ready to get back to attempting a novel on NaNoWriMo’s terms — more ready than I’ve been since the first time I attempted it. Not only am I ready but I need to do this. It’s more than just satisfying some creative urge. It’s an attempt to shake this feeling that I’m not worthy, not capable, not good enough; that not only do I not have the time, but I don’t have the right to readjust priorities to make this happen. Because when I dig deep enough, that’s really been what’s been stopping me. Not new babies, or dishes, or laundry, or trips, or holidays with family. It’s the feeling that I don’t have the right to do this.

But I can make this happen. I can and I will.

writing a novel

It will take discipline, and organization, and determination, and a fierce push to carry on when I let doubt get the best of me. But I’m choosing to prioritize passion.

Annnnnd…then I remembered that I will be on deadline for two projects come November.

Hmm…

I know! I’ll tweak the rules. That’s allowed right? Rules were made to be broken and all that?

So, I’ve decided to stretch NaNoWriMo. My projects start at the end of October and go through December, so after crunching numbers and variables (just kidding. I don’t do math), I’ve decided to start noveling October 1 (I know “noveling” is not an actual word but I hardly think I’m the first to coin it). I’m giving myself until midnight on New Year’s Eve to complete a first draft. That’s three months, which doesn’t sound like much of a challenge when juxtaposed with NaNoWriMo’s ambitious one-month goal, but three months with looming deadlines and three kids sounds like a lofty enough goal to me. I’m proclaiming it publicly to raise the stakes of the game, to declare my commitment to do whatever it takes and hold myself accountable.

I’m also declaring it publicly to ask you to join me. No really, will you? I’d love to have you along on this journey with me. I’ll be posting updates a few times a week on my progress, and you can update us through comments, or links posted in the comments if you’re doing updates on your blog. I’d love to stop by and lurk cheer you on. Together we can share tips and strategies, ask questions, be sounding boards, etc. (I’m still going to play along with NaNoWriMo, mostly so I don’t miss out on those pep talks by well-known authors.)

Already I feel the weight lifting in just declaring my intentions, my goal. This clarity of thought preempts the messy, challenging days ahead, I’m sure. But for now I choose to revel in it. Choosing passion over obligation feels freeing.