Not caught up? No problem!
Hello again, my fellow storytellers! (Storytellows?) We’re starting up this week with the final part in my PlaNoWriMo series, where I aim to break up the mystique surrounding writing a book! This series is for anyone who’s interested in writing a book, but is especially targeted at those interested in writing a book for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
I’d like to take off on this post by bringing everything back to zero sum. We’ve dissected my 9-point story-crafting method. We’ve gone into the nuts and bolts of building a coherent, well-crafted story that’s engaging and fun to write. To wrap it all up, I want to go into what is perhaps the most important part of a story. Not just the typing of words onto a page, but the act of dedicating yourself to a project and finishing it.
You see, all three of the previous posts are nothing if the story isn’t being written. You can plan and worldbuild and craft for a thousand years, but all of that stuff is going to be absolutely worthless to you if you don’t put the words onto the page. You’ve heard this before. I’ll add: you can write a thousand pages, too, but those are not a book if the story isn’t finished.
For most aspiring authors, this is where everything starts to break down. This is where all the motivation goes out the window. This is where the fear starts to take hold. Many of us sit down to write a book, look at the blinking cursor, blink, and curse.
What if nobody likes it? What if I quit halfway through? What if the story doesn’t come out as good on paper as it is in my head?
The questions go on ad infinitum. I pose that they are silly nonsense.
The truth is, you’re never going to know how great you are until you finish something. You’re never going to understand what you need to work on if you never complete something. If this NaNo is your first ever try at writing a book, then you have absolutely no clue what writing a book is like (for you). Trying to judge the experience before you have the experience is counterproductive. This isn’t hard drugs. It won’t kill you.
(It might kill you.)
I love you, dear storyteller. One of the reasons I love you is this: you want to write a book so badly that you are willing to sit through four of these posts and plan your own novel. You’re willing to search for solutions and techniques. You want to overcome your fear, and you want to finish a damn novel for NaNoWriMo this year. That takes a load of courage. And I admire that. (Mostly because I know exactly how you feel. I have been there. All authors have.)
You remember in the first post of this series? The very first thing you worked on was your Purpose. You outlined exactly why you are writing this novel.
When you sit down to write your NaNo novel on 1 November, I want you to write that Purpose on a sticky note and plop it onto whatever you write upon. Notebook, computer, the lipstick-poem-stained mirrors of your bathroom. Whatever you use to write. Write down your Purpose, stick it where you can see it, and look at it whenever you feel discouraged. Let that be the only thing you allow yourself to look at when you write. Don’t remove that sticky note EVER. (No, not even when you finish.)
Remind yourself why you’re writing this book. Motivate yourself. The rest will follow.
Finishing this book will not be easy. There will be a time–probably around 50%–where you realize there are plot holes. You’ll see characters acting not at all like themselves in the earlier chapters. You’ll see setting details that seem weird and unnecessary. You’ll see clunky prose and malformed ideas and sentences that drag on forever. It will be an ugly, disgusting, horrible mess.
You know what else was just like that? The first time you tried to… drive a car, give a class presentation, paint your nails, do your makeup, work out, go on a date, kiss for the first time, train your puppy to go pee outside, cook a full dinner, and impress people at your first day of work. After all those embarrassing, messy experiences, I bet you got better at all those things.
That’s because greatness takes time, work, patience, and experience. If you expect to play a perfect symphony the first time you sit down at a piano, of course you’re going to feel like shit when your fingers don’t do what you tell them. If you expect a child to just act perfectly and understand all of your parental needs, then you are giving birth to androids. Children need to mess up to learn. Pianists need to miss notes. You need to write a book and learn how to edit out the mistakes of the first pass (or draft).
I know it’s hard. I knooooow. But, you have got to trust me. Every author ever wrote some ridiculous story when they first started out. Every author has trunk novels they would never allow see the light of day. Every author has bled, sweat, and cried over a project. I’m telling you. Those start-up jitters are universal.
But you know what? You’re a badass, my friend. Just as Luke didn’t let a lost hand stop him from taking down Vader; just as Harry came back from death to defeat Voldemort; and just as Frodo overcame the Ring’s power and brought peace to Middle Earth, so too will you complete this book. None of those heroes came out the other side of their journey without injury and pain. But they came out the other side braver, more capable, and more prepared to defeat even greater odds.
You can do this, my beautiful friend. I know you can.
It’ll be messy, yeah. But good gracious will it be worth it. When 30 November rolls around and you’re staring down a finished manuscript–no matter how ugly the thing might be–you’ll be proud of yourself. You’ll have written a whole book. Perhaps it won’t be the next chart-topper (yet), but you’ll have a book that you can work with. You can edit that bad boy (or girl, or x) into something better than you ever imagined.
We’re in this together. I’m with you every step of the way. If you find yourself punching your computer or lighting fire to your notebooks: talk to me. If you feel like you can’t do it: talk to me. If you aren’t sure you’ll ever be able to do anything ever: slap yourself, then talk to me.
You can finish this book. I promise. It’s not exactly easy, but it’s also just a book.
I don’t really want to write a list of things you “should do” during NaNo to ensure you finish your project. Writing a book is different for everyone, and not every technique is going to be universally useful. But, three of them will forever be useful for every writer…
1. Remember why you’re doing this.
2. Sit down.
3. Finish the damn book.
(BONUS!) 4. At November’s end, snatch up your manuscript, press it lovingly against your bosom, and dance with glee.
I love you all. I’m super excited for you to do NaNo with me! I’ll be right here every day, plucking away at my keys, driving ever closer to my goal. I hope you’ll be on the other side of this screen doing the same.
When you’re done, let me read your thing!
Good luck, storytellows! You got this!
Like the post? Ronin gives writing tips-and-tricks every Wednesday! He also publishes an ongoing web series every Monday! Check those out on his Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and WordPress. To see the cool videos he posts every Friday, check out his YouTube channel!
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