5 Ways to Silence Your Inner Editor

Or Samuel L. Jackson will do it for you
Or Samuel L. Jackson will do it for you

This past year or so I’ve learned that writing is a lot like gardening, for me anyway. I love plants, and I tried my damndest to be a nurturing, green-thumbed plant momma. Unfortunately, I used to kill literally everything I touched, which was 3 hanging plants inside, a couple of standing plants (those deaths were more due to the cats chewing on them), an entire herb garden, potted trees, and cacti. Yes. I killed a cactus. Well, two actually.

Yet somehow, now, I am the proud mother of a thriving succulent, Elysium, boxed leaf Euonymus, a tomato plant, a Croton, and a tree.

Kind of reminds you of the $40 rock pictures, right?  Click the pic to reminisce
Kind of reminds you of the $40 rock pictures, right? Click the pic to reminisce

(If anyone knows the name of the tree on the bottom, please let me know)

What is the secret of my newfound knowledge? Let them do their thing. Only help them out (water, soil) when it looks like they need it. Letting them be was something I didn’t want to accept before. I wanted to fix them before they were broken. I didn’t give them a chance to know what thirst was before I smothered them with my love.

I was editing a short story (for the millionth time) to submit to a journal, and I realized I was digging around sentence-level deep, trimming nouns, adjectives, and adverbs like a Norelco on nitrous. And I wondered, at what point is it too much? At what point do we need to just let it go

frozen

so it can breathe? Like a good port. Like a first-born child on their first day of school (nobody cares by the second one, right?). This is why we have to walk away from our work. I don’t know yet how much I mutilated that short story, because I’m afraid to look at it, but I think I might have done something akin to the time I killed one of my plants by giving it Gatorade as a plant food substitute. What? It’s got sugars…electrolytes. Okay, that was my early green-thumbing-it days, people. And it was like 4 drops! How was I supposed to know plants were intolerant to Cool Blue Gatorade?

Anyway, here are 5 ways to free your inner bard without the invasive, mouth-breathing editorial projection of ourselves in our ears–or was smothering mother the metaphor we were going with?–destroying something before it has the chance to live.

Clock

Timed-writing: I am that naughty writer that reads what I just wrote before continuing on. It’s a problem. Timed-writing helps though, because I feel the crunch and just let my fingers fly on the keyboard. It has the potential to unearth things you might have otherwise censored if you were allowing your inner editor to fill your writing space with his onion breath.

Free-writing: Do this in conjunction with the first one or without a timer. It helps. Seriously.

pencil and paper

Write long-hand: Something about this method of composition, also, discussed here, opens up creativity channels you never dreamed you could access. When writing like this, you are more likely to not only be more concise with your writing because of the hand cramps, but more natural and less likely to go back and brave your horrific handwriting (is that just me?) to reread, risking premature editing.

Music: One word, two syllables: Pandora. Be careful with that Dubstep though. You don’t want this to happen.

Imbibing? Just kidding. Unplug: This may not seem relevant, but hear me out. My inner editor jumps out all the time—“what’s the word for that again? Look it up” or “You should probably know a little more before you start writing about that, Poser”—taking me away from my work. If you shut down access to the web and all the many distractions that come with it, or at least restrict yourself, you set yourself up for unhindered writing time. With Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter constantly pulling on your attention, you will return to your writing and reread what you just wrote to remind yourself what the deuce you were doing, which leads to unwanted editing. See the connection?

Recently, I developed an addiction to Twitter as I have started to understand how great of a platform it is for writers to connect with each other. But it’s time to set a limit on Twitter usage of once a day for less than an hour, ideally. I’ll let you know if I make progress with this.

So unplug. Silence your phone and tell the others in your house that you’re going away for a while. Or, it could be as simple as hiding distractions on your screen. I found this free app called Poe that clears everything from your screen while you write. I already have Scrivener which does that too, but Poe boasted a word count and timer feature I got all aquiver about. You have to scroll over the charms and click the word count charm to see the time clock and word count goals, which I guess is kind of good since you’re trying to avoid distractions anyway. Scrivener has been unable to replace Microsoft Word in my heart as my old standby word processor, for whatever damn reason, but Poe is nice when I really want to block everything out. Beware the wonky formatting.

Have any tricks to add to shut that snarky inner editor up? Add them in the comments. Or if mine helped you see the light, let me know. Whatever you do, get a handle on that inner editor now, or Samuel L. Jackson will find you.

Organic Vs. Outlining

Why it matters…

This argument has been raging for centuries at least. I do not presume to tell anyone to change their process but to present the sides, devil’s-advocate style, and justify why I lean the way I do between these two. My prewriting, novel-planning method is in a constant state of flux as I try to pin it down and find what works best for me, so my goal is to present you with the sides and what I have learned of both approaches thus far.

To plot or not to plot…

https://frankzumbach.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/hamlet-act-v-1/

In the article, Revising your writing again? Blame the modernists , Craig Fehrman writes that “during the 19th century, the Romantics made resisting revision a virtue. The best literature, they believed flowed from spontaneous and organic creative acts. ‘I am like the tyger (in poesy),’ Lord Byron wrote in a letter. ‘If I miss my first spring, I go growling back to my jungle. There is no second. I can’t correct.’ ” This is really the crux of the argument between these two approaches: organic composition is perceived by some to allow for freedom of the creative faculties where outlining inhibits that creativity. While this all-or-nothing mindset of Byron’s seems an extreme perspective, there are authors today that still seem to identify with this approach.

The organic method

In a 1992 Writer’s Digest article, Steven King says of his process,

“There’s no outline, nothing like that. That freezes it, it takes what should be a liquid, plastic, malleable thing to me and turns it into something else. Hey, to me it’s the difference between going to a canvas and painting a picture and going out and buying a Craftsmaster paint-by-the-numbers kit.

This “paint-by-the-numbers” comparison probably derives from the assumption that is tidied up at the end of an outlined novel complete with a red ribbon; every loose thread is pulled together into what might seem to be a too tight braid. Life just isn’t like that—there are often loose threads never addressed again. While not all outlined novels have to feel stiff or too tidy, the opposing organic approach is King’s process and for him, it has paid off.

Another example of a successful writer sharing this perspective is the poet Robert Frost. In his essay “The Figure a Poem Makes”, he makes a valid point about artistic honesty and relevance to the human condition: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Again, this seems to have worked for the poet laureate.

The outlining method

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Stephen King and Robert Frost is John Grisham. According to Tony Vanderwarker, in an article written for WU, John Grisham is a stickler for an outline—but a good one. One you put your damn soul into. While Grisham is of an analytical mindset (accounting major and former law practitioner, as the article indicates), his strict outlining guidelines are invaluable. In most cases, the egoistic writer needs to hear Grisham’s advice regarding one’s initial outline draft (yes, multiple drafts of an outline may be required):

 “Throw it out, start over…Takes too much ink to get it going.”

This simple, little statement has been in my brain since reading this WU post—and now you know how long I’ve been procrastinating on writing this blog post (Doh!). If you’re writing any type of modern novel, with the exception of maybe surrealist concepts or some short stories, you’re going to have to outline for a controlled, relevant flow of information. Even if you initially create organically, you will eventually go back through to do some cutting, rearranging, theme-searching (like soul-searching, but this one hurts), in short, revising/rewriting. As a novice, I never considered that everyone—anyone worth their salt at least—does this. But that I am no where near an expert no longer quite a novice, I have learned that very very few authors never reexamine their first draft, even fewer never change a word of their manuscript.

First novel--no outline
First novel–no outline
Second novel--with outline. Which is more well-known?
Second novel–with outline. Which is more well-known?

 

Outline now for revisions later

Revising and outlining go hand in hand, especially with regards to the charges laid against them; they are, after all, the more logic-driven, homework-feeling aspect of writing. Because of this logical aspect of both, outlining now can greatly assist in the revisions/rewriting that will come later. Once you take that raw, unformed idea that sprung forth from your head ready to take on the world like Athena from Zeus’s sick, sick mind, you have to mold it. It saves you time for you later to make sure your plot is on a track now, in the first go-around. Many would argue this, outlining, inhibits creativity. But

something to keep in mind about outlines is that you create them, and you can change them too.

But even then, it might still inhibit some. For me, someone who does not like thrashing in a sea of epistemological uncertainty, especially in the calling I have decided to invest my life in, it works. My own “outlining” is usually just future scenes written out in some rough order in which they’ll happen. But I will say that experimenting with more in-depth outlining for my rewrites and future novels, I have noticed a change in my work, in the direction in which it flows—more focused, less distracted. Middle-of-the-road outlining, as I have termed it, just means setting yourself up with a structure-awareness program as you go.

My critique partner and best friend, OstiumUnity, pretty much outlined her latest novel, Undertow, scene by scene. While she may not be a flighty writer, I am a flighty reader, and I always ask ten thousand questions. Some having to do with faults in logic she may not have seen, but usually it’s just me overthinking it from a writer’s perspective. Before she told me that she had outlined– something she had not done to the same extreme before–I found myself in awe of how much smoother and polished her work seemed, how few questions I had, and how much I could just sit back and be jealous of her mad writing skills—I mean, enjoy the novel. Not only does Undertow feel so thoroughly developed but also natural and right.

Still wondering why I used the term “organic” versus outlining?

The first time I had heard the word “organic” in reference to literature was in one of the most difficult classes of my collegiate career, a little undergrad class called Critical Approaches to Literature. I was terrified, especially when our professor told us to go home and look it up. The next day, after my unfruitful search, she enlightened us: Organic Unity was what Aristotle attributed to a work with a beginning, middle, and end, in which every part of it is inseparable from the cohesive whole. If one part is subtracted from that interdependent whole, the entirety falls apart. Though I use the term organic as natural or unplanned, in this context, I feel my proposal lends itself to this concept of Aristotle’s Organic Unity more than writing without an outline.

While I believe outlining does not necessarily hinder your writing process in lieu of this organic unity, I don’t know that I could ever pass Grisham’s Guantanamo-Bay-esque outlining camp. Incorporating some outlining into your prewriting approach could end up being very worth the payoff though, and I hope I have demystified and de-structuralized it a bit to make it less off-putting.

The Verdict

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Prewriting and preparation are about what works for you and should be a sacred ritual. It should be tailored to what inspires/benefits/encourages/prepares you. If you set pen to paper and just let it take you where you want, then by all means, surprise the hell out of yourself. If you plan every minute detail and that seems to be working for ya, then plan away. Or if you’re somewhere in the middle on this,  for both organic writing and outlined writing often lean on one another—the situation of most writers, I suspect—then keep on keeping on.

Finally, if you humbly came to this post because what you are currently doing does not seem to be working, then, hopefully, some of the pros and cons of both approaches and the experts’ opinions laid out here help you find the path of stress-free, productive, not-throwing-you-cell-phone-because-you’re-procrastinating-with-twitter-at-your-cat* composition.

*(or dog, if you’re a writer you probably have one or the other. It’s easier for them than humans to deal with our type)

Additional sources:

http://surlymuse.com/outlining-for-fun-and-word-count/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2014/03/17/the-blog-tour-what-why-and-how-i-write/

http://ostiumunity.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-journey-and-the-destination/

And if you’re not into outlining, but you like to be organized, check out these writing tips

Want to weigh in? Please do! I would love to hear any additional pros or cons not addressed here. Also, if you have your own post on this subject, I’d love to add it to the additional sources!

The Querying Process: A Lesson in Humility

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This is a difficult post to write. Not because I’m embarrassed to share this experience, but because I really had to do some digging to understand what urged me to share this. The point I hope readers take away from this post is that as writers, we fall. We fall hard and often. I don’t want to say fail, because it’s only failure if you don’t get back up and fix the problem the made you fall in the first place. So I hope, by sharing my stumbles and flat-out face falls, readers find comfort in knowing this experience is hard for everyone. Writers in the writing stage, or the querying stage, or even the publishing stage all go through set-backs, self-doubt, and necessary readjustments. I suppose this post is also a mantra to myself that everyone experiences these emotions and fears, and the only way to overcome them is to work through them.

I recently submitted my first novel to a few agents for representation. However few my submissions, the response–or lack thereof–reiterates the fact that there are millions of fish in the sea and even more microscopic plankton trying to latch onto those fish for a ride. I now fully understand that I’m just another microscopic plankton. In order to even be considered by the fish,  I need to make sure I’ve got something worthwhile to offer them. Okay, that metaphor got weird. Apologies.

After reading the excellent article, “Is Your Book Good Enough for Publication: A Cold-Blooded Assessment“, recently posted on Writer Unboxed, I considered the replies to my query submissions, the first of which was my most coveted agent who just so happened to reject me about an hour after I clicked send. Now, it could have been my query letter, but I think it had more to do with my premise. Then again, there must be thousands of situational combinations that could have prevented these agents from asking for a full manuscript. To better guard myself in the future against any potential pitfalls during this process, I had to reexamine my work and pitch from the outside in. I had to consider each from an agent’s perspective to effectively refine them.

Though I wrote a book I would love to read, I didn’t really consider whether it is what publishers want right now (and therefore what an agent would want to take on). Did I think enough about marketability? Will it tidily fit into a niche somewhere? And the biggest question, will it be what people want to buy? I have taken this “Cold-Blooded Assessment” (and a number of other articles WU keeps putting out, like “Writer, Boxed“) as a sign that my decision to strip my novel down to its bones and tendons to better see the inner workings is the right one. My plan is play up the vital parts of my concept in a work, not only I enjoyed writing, but others will love reading, people will want to buy, publishers will want to print, and agents will want to pitch.

My critique partner and best friend has always been encouraging and assuring that my novel could be published. And I know, when we encourage one another, we both mean it as readers honestly gauging each other’s work against the quality of the other stuff we’ve read. On the flip side though, we’re not publishing experts or agents. So after six rejections and three resounding cricket choruses, I could submit to more agents, but I’m taking this as a learning experience and responding, rather than reacting, to it. I will take measures to ensure I feel comfortable with every aspect of it before putting it out there again (Is that even possible? Has anyone ever felt that way in the history of this craft?).

I saw this advice somewhere recently: If you have a gut feeling that some particular thing is wrong with your work, that element probably needs revisiting. Why should you expect an agent, a publishing house, or, most importantly, your readers to overlook that problematic element you noticed? Until heeding this advice, I never truly understood the meaning of throwing out 50 plus pages. I used to scoff at such a thought–why write a book if you end up trashing a quarter of it? But here I am now, starting anew and racking my brain for the perfect formula of internal action versus external action, weighing the genres I should most closely associate myself with (I’ll be tackling this in a future post), and just trying my damnedest to write a good book people cannot put down.

If you haven’t gotten this far in the publication process, know that there is some amount of satisfaction about getting your work out there though, despite how terrifying it is. Knowing that your pitch has been seen by people in the biz–rejected, granted, but seen nonetheless–is pretty amazing. You have to pat yourself on the back if you’ve gotten this far. Whatever you do, don’t stop just because you fall a few times. It’s only failure when you let it make you stop. You have to keep moving to get anywhere. 

El-Castillo-close-up

Have you refined your process, your novel, or your approach to getting published as you moseyed along Writer Road? What advice, rejections, or encouragement incited those changes?

9 Free Expert Sources Every Writer Should Explore

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I am obsessed with procedure and process and understanding others’ processes and methods.  As an aspiring writer, you should be on the up and up with expert advice and examples of successful methods. Fortunately for you, I actually enjoy researching the valuable and not so valuable information out there on the writing process, agent finding process, and publishing process. So, I have taken the time to compile all my finds here. Obviously it’s not everything, but I find these resources useful (to be determined yet as to whether they are successful). Hopefully this blog can be a start for those of you who hate doing the footwork of researching this stuff, or those of you who  just haven’t come across these golden nuggets. Without further ado, what follows are 9 resources you might find useful as an aspiring or established writer, not in any specific order:

1. So, the first one’s kind of obvious: Blogging. I have learned a lot from blogging (I think I am getting a little better about these damned parenthetical asides). It’s an entirely different kind of writing that really does click when you speak to a focused audience—which should, in turn, clarify your writing on your blog. Blog writing is also different than writing fiction, because it forces you to be concise and entertaining with less of the bells and whistles with which novice writers often clog up potentially good fiction writing (I am totally guilty of this). Blogging necessarily teaches you to to cut down on excessive purple prose. I, myself, like purple prose every now and then, but sometimes it is just downright superfluous.

2. Nathan Bransford: I have learned things from this gentleman’s fun, highly accessible blog that I do not think I would have been able to glean from anywhere else. He’s got years in the biz, so he knows what he’s talking about. But he also brings a fresh, modern perspective to this subject of breaking into the publishing world that you do not encounter with other “experts” giving this advice. Bransford’s blog covers everything from “How to Write a Query Letter” to “How the Publishing Process Works” and the hilarious, “The Publishing Process in GIFS”.

3. QueryShark.  I am a big fan of learning and I enjoy laughing. I get both of these needs utterly fulfilled on this website. I haven’t yet submitted to her because I haven’t read her entire archive, which she requires. But honestly, I don’t know if my big girl panties will ever be big enough to prepare me for her ruthless red pen. QueryShark is an invaluable resource for understanding what makes an excellent query letter and how agents respond to the ridiculous number of requests they get from would-be writers seeking representation.

Ah, Escher. So adept at conveying the cyclic nature of life. Like learning your craft, actually writing, then trying to find a way for others to experience it. And…repeat.
Ah, Escher. So adept at conveying the cyclic nature of life. Like learning your craft, actually writing, then trying to find a way for others to experience it. And…repeat.

4. How to Write a Great Query Letter by Noah Lukeman. It’s short, sweet, to the point and chock full of great, easy to follow advice (if you’re willing to sit down for multiple hours or days to beat that query letter draft you already have into submission). He helps the reader to perceive the query letter like a business transaction. In a more methodical and slightly less entertaining approach than Query Shark, Lukeman lets you in on the thoughts an agent cycles through while reading your query letter, effectively laying out exactly what you need to do to ensure, at the very least, that yours is not overlooked. I got this book for free off the kindle store.

5. Journal databases. Somebody has already compiled for you hundreds—nay! Thousands!—of potential platforms for your work to shine! You just have to find the right list of journals, then the right kind of journal. Poets & Writers has a pretty awesome list. From what I’ve read, in this publishing climate and century, you have to expect to get some recognition on the humbler platforms before you make it in the big leagues.


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6. Literary agent databases. As with the literary journals, if you’re of the majority then you’re probably going to need a literary agent to get published (though it seems this majority is being swiftly superseded by successful self-published authors). And don’t let anyone fool you. It’s hard work finding one. Poets & Writers has a pretty cut and dry one.  Literary Agent: Undercover was a nice resource when I was compiling my list of agents to submit to. I used it to supplement my copy of The 2013 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino. Some of the information is outdated though. For instance, I sent a query to an agent who is now the digital director for her agency. Doh! But if you do your homework on the people you find there, the format is really nice and accessible, and it gives you a good, solid start.

7. AnnieNeugebaur.com. Her “Organized Writer” page boasts an impressive list of helpful plotting and submission tracking charts that the web-directress created herself. She posts the fruits of labors for free, but donating for all the hard work she obviously put into these doesn’t hurt! I have used the “Writer’s Bio Template”, the “Agent Query Prep-work Chart” and keep current versions of the short stories and poetry submissions charts. A great source for the resourceful aspiring writer!

8. On Writing by Stephen King

on writing

This one isn’t free, per se, but it was for me. Picked it up off my university’s ‘take a book, leave a book’ shelf (I didn’t leave a book, shhh).  While you could probably find a copy of it for free in a thrift store, just shell out the four or five bucks to buy it used off Ebay or Amazon.

I’m not a big fan of memoirs. Once in a while you read one that just knocks your socks off but I was very pleasantly surprised by this (also, of King’s work, I’d only ever read to the end of The Gunslinger and The Drawing of Three, so I didn’t know what to expect from this. Pretention or some boring, drawn out dusty, old recollection about how he grew into the amazing writer that he is today. But it was none of these things). King gives us an engaging account of how his own writing life developed, his addictions as a writer (he says stimulants do not boost our writing with anything that wasn’t already there before—completely contradicting my post on Writer’s Lot, I might add), and in the ‘Toolbox’ section and ‘On Writing’ second half of the book, he seamlessly moves into an outlining of the tools every writer needs to acquire and hone. Bottom line, it’s a useful read well worth your time while being immensely enjoyable. Especially helpful, which I will certainly refer to many times in the future, is the comparison of his ‘closed door’ version of the beginning pages of his story 1408, and the ‘open door’, heavily marked version, which shows all of his changes and cuts. Most predominantly, his cuts. The lesson from this little exhibit of his has melded itself to my brain, like a barnacle on a ship’s hull.

9. And last, but not least, the sober-minded friend or relative (very important that they are not a writer) that can honestly, and comfortably tell you, ‘no, that’s insane’, when you pitch a whack idea. If this sober-minded third party is another writer, he or she will probably just start trying to figure out how you could work the bloody idea in.

Spock delivering his blue steel because Captain Kirk probably just suggested some outlandish shenanigans
Spock delivering his blue steel because Captain Kirk probably just suggested some outlandish shenanigans

But it is as good to have a (mostly) sober-minded friend who is also a writer. These kind of folks make invaluable critique partners. Writing groups, or even a regular date with one other person, help you focus, engender a bit of a competitive edge sometimes, get us talking ideas until the wee hours of the morning, and aid us in gaining a fresh perspective.

Bottom line, all of this is just the nit and grit that many don’t care to bother with. We want to just get back to our writing, our darling WIP, our current baby. But alas, this is necessary. Sometimes we can get bogged down in all this prep work and research, the fear that we might not be good enough heightening all the while. Or the realization that we don’t actually know what we’re doing steals the breath right out of our lungs, rendering our entire life’s goal/ambition/work null and void. That’s how it is for me anyway. But as the King says,

‘The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.’

Fun extra tidbits

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  • If you get Writer’s Digest magazine (and I hope you do), the themes of February’s edition were awesome! I was just thinking about the pros and cons self publishing versus traditional publishing and lo and behold, I open the magazine to find “What Writers Need to Know About the E-Book Market”, “Best of Both Worlds”, “10 Top Publishing Insiders (& Outsiders) to Follow Online.”  Also, I recently reviewed my query letter for my first novel and have concluded the story must be worked on before the query letter can be improved. So you can imagine my ‘it’s a sign!’ moment when I found some very helpful outlining articles and provocative questions for raising the stakes in one’s novel, like “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, “Mapping Out Your Hero’s Adventure”, and “Outlining and Story Mapping: 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story.”
  • The musicology of the novel is fun and quite useful for a multitude of POVs. I like being able to see a visual diagram or my characters’ point of views in my fantasy. I need to keep track of how often they switch, and it helps me to feel the beats of the novel’s temporal progression. Especially with as many character point of view changes I’m utilizing in Blood of the Realm, I need to keep track of who we haven’t heard from in a while or who we’re getting a heaping helping of.

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Mmmhmmm. I love me a good villain.
Mmmhmmm. I love me a good villain.

I’ve been considering the idea of rewriting my first novel to introduce the villain sooner and involve him more to heighten the stakes. I’ve always wrote these exercises off with a ‘meh’. But once I actually did it, not only did I know my villain better—their motives, their dreams, their infatuations and nervous and/or psychotic ticks—I also knew a better direction to take my story in, having gleaned ideas for major plot points from this exercise. It was amazing and eye-opening. I suggest everyone do it. Even if all it amounts to is just a fun freewrite, it’s worth it, because you still probably benefit, even if you don’t consciously realize it.

Know of any fun prewriting exercises or imperative writers’ resources? Please share them in the comments.

Failing NaNoWriMo

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The title is pessimistic and depressing, but I swear I’m okay. No, really. I felt like I should write down my experience with NaNoWriMo though (yet another means of procrastinating to write on my novel?). I started this month jubilant and green as every other chum that starts off on a pilgrimage of epic proportions, like Tolkien’s hobbitses running through hill and dell of green fields to begin their adventures; like every Disney character who ever wanted to go exploring the real world outside his or her menial existence (though internally, I was experiencing something more akin to what Rapunzel went through in Tangled when leaving her tower);

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like Anakin Skywalker, bright-eyed and doughy cheeked, starting his Jedi training with Obi-Wan….and we all know how that ended.

Oh, Anakin, you’ve….changed

My excitement and awareness that something magical was about to happen was a real thing, and I still feel it, in a different way albeit, more removed, awe-inspiring way at the power of this culture and community and this crazy tradition that was born from it.

The slackening off started to happen right around the end of the first week, when I started—well, there’s no nice way to put it—slacking. Now, while my grandmother is sick (and commencing full-on writing sessions in the hospital during visits with her wouldn’t go over very well, even with an excuse like NaNoWriMo), I have done my fair share of dilly-dallying, hem-hawing, pussy-footing and all other manner of avoiding what needed to be done, because I just didn’t FEEL it. A lame excuse, by the way, NaNos; the point of this event is to power through all that passivity and/or terror to move forward, to roundhouse kick down that wall of writer’s block.

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Just make sure you’re wearing steel-toed boots, because, let’s face it, you’re not Chuck Norris and you may sprain a little piggy. My point here is, the second I stopped writing EVERY night, getting my 1,666 words in, was the second I stopped driving myself to push forward. No matter how much you tell yourself ‘I can always catch up later’, or ‘I can write double—nay! triple the required word count in one sitting’, you run the risk of losing momentum. That’s why there is a daily word count tracker; you’re supposed to be running to the finish line all month, not speed-walking and then planning to catch up with a heart-attack inducing sprint at the last.

So, now that I’ve admitted my failure (to reach 50k), I want to quote my best friend, who told me that I didn’t really fail NaNoWriMo, because I have written more this month than I have ever, in my life, been able to produce in a month (usually no more than 16 pages). I proved to myself that I can park my ass and throw out 34,247 words in less than 30 days, and that is pretty damn amazing to me. She went on to point out that this month was made for me, because it gets me to do exactly what I am unable to do because of distractions, insecurity, overthinking, back-editing: WRITE.

It’s something so simple, yet so few people can understand what this event represents for writers. My sister asked me “Why is it every time I ask you to do something, you say you have to write?” I went into the old explanation of what writing means to me, that I want this to be my career, and for it to be that way, I HAVE TO DO IT. And seeing as how I can’t do it in the day when I’m working, I have to do it at some point—and that some point happens to be whenever I have time off. I have major problems with focus (beginning to think I might have a strain of ADD, as these parenthetical asides may have already indicated) and procrastination though. So while I could have won NaNoWriMo 2 times over had I used every moment of free time to write (even with write-free visits the hospital), the impetus is what sometimes gets a little dull. NaNoWriMo helps me keep it sharp. And now I know what to expect for my second year, and I plan to open the door a little wider to fully let that impetus-sharpening motivation in.

So, to conclude these ruminations, I would like to, despite my failure, congratulate the incorporeal entity that is NaNoWriMo. You have acquired a follower for life. This is a remarkable community that fulfills a critical need for writers. Thank you for seeing me through my failure, and I hope you will be able to validate my future successes.

If you also “failed” NaNoWriMo, what have you taken away from it?