There have been a few whispers of ‘giving up’ in the past couple of days. Furtive glances at word counts followed by squeaks of terror and gasps of dread. I’ll never finish! This is pointless, my novel is crap…I’m crap! Wahh!
The Good: Let me get one thing straight – you are not crap, you are not useless, and your novel is not the steaming pile of doodoo you think it is.
The Bad: I lied; of course your novel is god awful, mine is as well. It’s a draft zero, it’s going to feel worse than walking in on Mum and Dad during sexy times.
The weird kind of Ugly: Just because your novel is crap doesn’t mean it IS crap…I feel like I’m going to lose a few of you here.
Believe it or not when you hit fifty-thousand words during NaNo a siren does not sound signalling instantaneous publication. No mysterious black-clad figure floats in through the window, shoots lightning bolts out of its hands and exclaims “To Waterstones!” You’ve only written about half of a zeroth draft. There is a hell of a lot more work to be done in order to turn that pile of poorly chosen words, red squiggly lines, and plot holes into a coherent novel worthy of donning the shelves of your local book shop, or the servers of whichever digital publisher you prefer.
A naff half-written zeroth draft is not an indication of failure.
You’re going to bloody hate your manuscript for a fair chunk of November, and a lot of your writing is going to suck donkey balls. But that’s ok, you learn through being bad. If you thought your novel was perfect, even after several drafts, then you’d have to give up writing immediately, big head. You need to think it sucks so you’ll edit it and improve it. You’ll think it’s absolutely vile right up until the point someone wants to publish it…and then you’ll spot a load of new errors you want to correct, and weep into your horrible, horrible manuscript.
A writer should always think their work needs improvement.
And if you’re worried more about bad planning screwing up any forward momentum you may have had at the beginning of the month, remember that planning and preparation are both things that can be altered as you go along. Take it as red from someone who does that with every novel he’s ever written. But you’ll only find out what doesn’t work (and therefore needs adjusting) by writing it and realising it doesn’t work. The chances of it all working out first time around are too large to calculate, and the only way to find the right way is to keep going down the wrong path and backtracking until you find a satisfying ending. But you NEED to keep writing for this to work. Don’t stop.
Think about it, if I try to learn the guitar there is no bloody way I can be strumming away like Nuno Bettencourt in just a couple of weeks. I won’t have a clue how to hold the damn thing properly, I’m not going to be anywhere near flexible enough to play the majority of notes, I won’t be able to remember which string is which, my fingers are going to hurt like a…you get the point. If I quit after a few weeks because I wasn’t ‘good enough’ you’d laugh at me for expecting it to be that easy.
Same thing goes for your novel and the NaNo challenge. Yes, it can feel pretty sucky if you’re not going to hit the 50k target before the end of the month, especially when others make it seem so effortless, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. You can continue your 50k quest into December and beyond. Most of you are doing NaNo because it’s a great excuse to motivate the hell out of yourself. You’re surrounded by others taking part in the same challenge; you get a heap of advice and informative posts, threads, talks from friends and internet strangers alike; and there’s the prospect of beaming like a monkey with a banana tree when you reach the coveted end goal.
If you don’t have fifty-thousand words by midnight on November 30th, you know what you have? Exactly the same things! The support of other writers, invaluable resources to help you finish, and the shiny hope of getting your damn novel finished. But now you don’t have to panic about pesky deadlines and enforced goals.
Sleeping, working, house chores, picking the kids up from school, health issues, Christmas shopping, social sabotage, eating, drinking, all those breaks involving the two things that are a result of eating and drinking, spouse/partner interference, plotting in daydreams, scribbling in notepads, creating characters, washing up, vacuuming those buggering bastard crumbs that never seem to come out of the carpet whilst using one hand to lift the sofa so you get the entire floor…oof, I’m exhausted just thinking about it! You’re doing all of that and a HELL of a lot more AND you’re still managing to write a big juicy pile of fiction as the month goes on.
You are the hardcore epitome of a true writer – someone who writes in spite of a hectic and chaotic life screaming for attention every single day. The fact you’re getting any words down at all is due in no small part to the fact you’re frickin’ awesome! So don’t admit defeat. Screw the 50k if you have to and write as much as you can write. It doesn’t matter if you eke out another two thousand words over the next twelve days or if you manage twenty thousand, you win by not giving up. You win by writing as much as you can, right up to the stroke of midnight, then stopping and giving the finger to the clock and carrying on!
You’re a bloody superhero!
You’re Super Author, or Irony Man, or Wonder Writer, or Captain Prose!
Types faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a triple espresso, able to leap gaping plot holes in a single bound!
You’re a motherfudging writer! You’ve got this! Good luck and Godspeed, fearless penmonkey!