It must be the beginning of week two because all day on this marathon-writing day (since I’m on a plane today for over twenty hours, it seemed a perfect plan), I’ve been battling the persistent idea that this book is stupid. My plot is stupid and slow. I’m not raising the stakes fast enough. The characters are weak. My writing sucks.
Ah, week two. Since the very first time I tried NaNo and gave up during week two, this week has plagued me. That’s part of the reason I wanted to have a marathon write today, to try to kck through to the middle of the novel when it gets fun again.
I should have known that even a marathon writing day wouldn’t be able to combat the week two blues.
If I hadn’t read Christ Baty’s No Plot, No Problem before my second try at NaNoWriMo, I fear my second try would have gone the same as the first, incomplete. And I wouldn’t be here with you today. But Baty talks about week two and writing through. Every year, week two has brought with it a crisis of confidence, a crisis of plot.
Now, if you’re sailing through week two, great. Ignore me. But if you’ve started to tell yourself your idea is stupid. If you’ve been tempted (and I’ve seen you on Facebook ;-)) to get rid of the beginning of your novel and start again., please take my word for it. It’s not you, it’s week two.
So how do you get around this.
1. You write anyway. Don’t delete anything. Don’t start over. Remember, “The first draft of anything is [poop]
.” Hemingway said it, so it must be true. Let your first draft be a draft, a sad, sucky, plot-hole-ridden draft. As Katrina Kittle says, “You can’t revise what you haven’t written,” and all stories of genius writers to the contrary, everyone revises.
2. Show up to write-ins, virtual and in-person, and let the energy of the group carry you along. Ignore the voice in the back of your mind that tells you that you are the only one writing a terrible book. We’re all writing terrible books. It will take work to make them wonderful, but we’ll do that work--in January, maybe in February, maybe next summer, maybe in three years. You are not unique in your suckitude, you are just like everyone else, writing an awful first draft. (See 1 above.)
3. If rereading your work brings up the desire to edit, stop rereading your work. You need to shut that editor up. One way to do that is to refuse to give him (or her) anything to do.
4. Be kind to yourself. How many words have you written so far—5,000, 10,000, 15,000. Pat yourself on the back. No one needs to know how awful those words are. Besides, people have made millions of dollars off awful writing. Read the first pages of a blockbuster erotic tale recently made into a movie, and you’ll see what I mean. You set a goal, you’re working on it, give yourself some love. Take yourself to a movie, buy yourself a new book, go to Ghostlight Coffee in Dayton and buy a grapefruit-rosemary Italian soda and a Harvest Moon Twinkie and celebrate the fact that you had the courage to start. That feeds the courage to continue.
5. Whine on the boards. Not too much, not to often, but whine a little and see how many other people join in. Week two is tough. I’m here to tell you though, that once you make it through week two it starts to feel better. No, you aren’t suddenly convinced that your writing is brilliant and you should send it straight to the best editor in the business once December 1strolls around. It isn’t; don’t. But you are convinced that you can finish this first draft.
There’s lots of other advice out there on how to make it through week two. Take fifteen minutes, look at the advice, then turn off the internet, set a timer for 45 minutes, and just write. Let your story take you on its ridiculous, lame, merry way. Take the next step, write the next 1,667 words. Write through the doldrums. Next week, the wind will pick up to blow you through the last two weeks and to victory.