the perfect words

sometimes, the perfect words come along at the perfect time. Here’s a snippet of the pep talk that was posted yesterday by N.K. Jemisin to writers participating in NaNoWrimo (emphasis added below by me).

You can find the full text here.

“…at some point around the midpoint of the novel you’re invariably going to stop, look at what you’ve written—which will be a mess because in-progress novels are always a mess, that’s what creativity looks like and that’s what revision is for—and you’re going to recoil in horror. This is the nadir of the excitement you had felt when you started the novel, the opposite of the moment of amazing that spurred you to begin NaNoWriMo. This is the Chasm of Doubt.

If you’ve reached this point, you now have a choice: you can jump into that chasm, quit your novel, and wallow in how awful you are. Or you can veer away from the cliff. Doing so will be hard, because you’ve already built up the wrong kind of momentum. You’ll have to reverse engines and burn some extra fuel to break the inertia. You’ll have to climb back toward the peak, or at least reach a safe height. You might get back there a little late, but that’s okay. Better late than never.

And if it helps, remember: this is what makes you a writer. Yes, this. The sick feeling in your stomach, the weariness you feel, the utter conviction that you are the Worst and your novel is the Worst and everything is awful. This is how writers feel sometimes. (This is how everyone feels sometimes.) But writers do not let this feeling overwhelm them…”


NaNoWriMo has begun!

NaNoWrimo, short for National Novel Writing Month, runs for the month of November, all around the world. The goal for anyone participating is simple: write 50,000 words in the month of November. If you write everyday, that’s 1,667 words each day.

Why 50,000 words? Because that’s the length of a short novel. 50,000 words would generally amount to about 200 book pages. To give an idea of how much that is, a lot of the older classics are 200 pages or less: The Great Gatsby, The Crucible, Charlotte’s Web, Animal Farm, Heart of Darkness, The Outsiders, Night. And lots and lots of books are more (sometimes WAAAY MOOOREE) than 200 pages: think any Harry Potter book (700+ pages!), Eleanor and Park (329), The Help (464), and so on.

The point of NaNoWriMo is not particularly to finish a complete book. The point isn’t even to have a piece at the end of it that you can send off to a publisher read to ship. No…the point is to write. To carve out time each day, sit down at the keyboard or the notepad, and put words on the page.

I’ve been looking forward to NaNoWriMo for months. It was one of my “adventures” (#5 me thinks?) for what I would do when I quit my job. It’s almost kind of what I quit my job for. I wanted time to put to my writing, where I could work out some of my kinks, put the hours in, learn a few things about how to stick with a story and a set of characters for the long haul.

I want writing to be a part of my future, and NaNoWriMo not only provides a cool challenge with a structure I can work with — it also has provided a community. And that has been awesome.

I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who support me, emotionally and financially. I could. not. do it without you all.

But NaNoWriMo adds an additional layer of support: when I sit down to write, I know that there are thousands of writers out there in the world who are doing the same thing. They’re struggling with their characters. Questioning plot lines. Questioning their ability to create anything new or original or good.

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And it’s not an amorphous group of people either. On the NaNoWriMo website, I’ve connected to the Providence NaNoWriMo writing group, and on Thursdays and Saturdays, there’s physical meet ups where us writers are going to come together and make magic happen on the page, in the same room.

Also (as you can see above) I’ve connected with writers via Twitter, people from around the country who are all sharing their own NaNoWriMo successes and stresses. With both groups, i’ve found support and inspiration, a feeling of togetherness and meaning.

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And within that protective bubble of support, I’ve been writing.

The last five days, I’ve been working on a novel (how exciting is it to say that?!) about three teens dealing with betrayal, self harm, love and friendship. Over those five days, I’ve been shocked by how much my characters and some of my main plot points have shifted.

Ideas that seemed rock solid when i started no longer made sense and had to shift. Character traits that I’d given my characters in the first few scenes? — they’ve thrown them off for ones that fit them better. As I write, I’m getting to know my characters better, giving them voices, tics, vocabularies that match them. I’ve grown comfortable with the idea that this is a draft — I can come back later and add in details, describes things better, add suplots, change dialogue, rewrite scenes.

I’m getting better at not stressing about the things I got wrong five pages ago – was it confusing? too internal? not enough dialogue? I’m also getting better about not worrying about what I’m writing now — is it too racy? intense? emotional?

The only task I’ve given myself, the only goal I have to meet, is sit down at my computer every day and I just write.

And sure, sometimes it feels weird to think that come the end of November, I may have created something that actually does truly and utterly never deserve to be on a bookshelf.

But, even if that happens (and there is such a high likelihood that it will, as it is my first ever attempt at a novel-length work) I still know that this month is not in vain, no matter what. I’m learning a TON, i’m meeting and interacting with writers, and at the end of it I’ll have a freaking first draft of a novel. Or part of one!

Most importantly, I’m giving myself the time and space to do what matters to me every day. And even when I’m stressed and anxious, that feels awesome.