It’s November, and it occurs to me that last year at about this time I was half way through my first draft novel. I was on top of the world with excitement over the joy I was experiencing in finding my voice. I had this amazing rush over the 1800+ daily word count production that was flowing out of me uninhibited. This ease followed me through Spring and it was not until I placed myself in an actual writing class this Summer that I began to second guess myself.
The harsh reality was, I was a complete novice.
And, those 58,000 words I accomplished through the NANOWRIMO contest were just words. It was a hodge podge of characters and actions and plot that was more mishmash than anywhere near being bonafide story.
As the weeks went on in the writing class, I began to feel as if those words I had previously cherished and for which I had felt such refreshment had become the ruins of a bombed out shelter within which I had sought refuge and had placed my hope for a bright future. After my writing class, it felt as if I had used all the wrong tools in the arsenal and I was ill prepared for the battle.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all lost and it was not a waste of time. On the contrary, the contest last November was successful in that it pulled me out of an unproductive writing life of claiming I wanted to write but not writing and threw me into the world of daily pursuit of the big story. Combined with the writing class, I came to realize that I do have what it takes but that I can’t skip over the learning part, the technique exercises, the proper development of point of view and the full understanding of the scope of what makes a good story. What I have now is a bucket full of ideas with some interesting people, some who have passion. What I need is a way to figure out how to deliver this up in a format that is enjoyable to read, flows logically and satisfies my inner critic. Ok, well that last part is darn near impossible- for I do not believe that my inner critic will ever really shut up- but I can try to lower the volume a bit and then seek to drown it out with a boat load of hard work layered with some hope. I am not giving up!
When I first started this novel writing project, I proclaimed that this was a five year project to anyone to whom I revealed my dirty little secret (you, know …. pssst… that I write). So, the fact that it has now been one year and I have under my belt 58,000 words and a six week summer writing class to claim as done- well, I guess I am right on track. This is year two of the adventure and I am re-energized on where I am headed with the journey.
During the contest, I was somewhat careful with the disclosure of my novel writing project because the minute you tell anyone that you write, the immediate follow up is “what do you write?”. Up until November 2015, I didn’t really have a good answer. For the past thirty plus years, and yes it’s been that long, I just wrote in journals, nothing substantial. Now that I was tackling the notion of novel writing, saying it out loud was scary. It was almost embarrassing because saying it suggested that I was actually claiming to be a writer and well, I wasn’t really a writer. I just didn’t really believe I could claim or own that moniker. I wasn’t sure that if I shared my product, that anyone would recognize it for what it was.
So this November 16th, I pull out the words but this time, I take time within my writing days to study theory and the basic structure of story. As I head into 2017, I focus my attention on the craft and commit to progress not perfection. I retrieve some of my writing resource books including one titled: DIY MFA. Each of then offers excellent insights, exercises to build the writing muscles and excitement once again that I can do this!
One of the first concepts that I have encountered in this renewal of my writing passion includes the notion that if I resist writing on a particular topic, if it is hard to pursue… then very likely, it’s exactly this idea or project that I must nurture further.
I think about my “in progress” historical WW II occupation story of Norway, and the fear I have of getting the facts wrong or of trivializing this incredibly serious topic… the prospect of it all had me in knots. Doubting my ability to properly capture how the war affected people had me flailing in late summer. And in that self-doubt, I faltered and I simply stopped writing.
Now I regroup and I re-frame. I am not defeated. I will prevail and the story will be told.