Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo Countdown: Final Prep

Yesterday I went to a craft festival and spent a couple of hours making rounds of the booths and finding some treasures. I also soaked up all the good vibes radiating from the artists and their creations. One glassmaker and I talked for a few minutes about direction and vision and realization, and how weird and wonderful the path is that takes us from dreaming to living the dream. Our arts are completely different but as artists we followed our hearts in the same ways. It was a bit like meeting a sibling I didn't know I had.

Something I noticed as I made my way through the aisles were the artists who were demonstrating. There is something amazing about watching someone practice their art in public. You get a decidedly rare glimpse of techniques in action, the sort of materials they use and the steps they take from idea to finished piece. Some I understood, others completely mystified me. I noted that the demonstrating artists often had helpers mind the booth and the browsers while they worked, and yet they never seemed to mind stopping work on their piece for a few seconds to answer a question or accept a compliment.

I'm about to spend thirty days writing virtually in public but I haven't considered my project from the observer's point of view. I've always assumed when I talk about my work that everyone who listens is on the same frequency, but that's not really possible. I do things that even I don't really understand, such as planning out basically everything with a story but writing dialogue spontaneously, which must seem illogical. No, it is illogical, but I do it because I've learned over the years that this planned/unplanned approach produces the best results for me. Anyway, it gave me a lot to ponder.

Some of you may still be on the fence about whether or not to join in NaNoWriMo, and you've got another day to decide before the madness begins. I wanted to talk to you fence people today because I think of all the writers out there you're the ones who are most often neglected. It's all well and good for me to natter on about writing a novel in November; I'm a pro, I've published, I can write a book in the shower (not really, but I'm rather fond of that myth) etc. I'm going to sit my virtual booth here and show off all month while I do what surely I must be able to do in my sleep.

Maybe some of that is true, but what you don't see is what's in my head right now. So here's a peek: I don't know if I can do it. I've never written these characters or operated in this world. I'm prepared but certainly I could be better prepared. I haven't color-coded everything to death yet. Sure, it's an interesting idea, but what if I fumble it? What if my mojo stops working? What if life decides to make mine miserable from 11/1 to 11/30? I have to revise another book and promote a third during November; what if I fall behind and can't finish? What if everyone hates it? What am I going to do if I screw this up? I'm a professional, for God's sake. What was I thinking?

Yes, despite all my experience and publishing glory I am just like any other storyteller. I worry, I doubt myself, and that blank page scares the daylights out of me. I'm no different from you. Right now, at this very moment, if I could call it quits I probably would. It's too much for anyone to handle. I can do this next year. Give me a day and I can definitely talk myself out of the whole mess.

I won't do that. You know how Adele supposedly throws up right before she goes on stage to perform? Same thing. We're doing the same thing right now, you and I, we're puking. Okay, mentally, but it's just as bad. So have at it: question yourself, ridicule yourself, beat yourself up, whatever it takes to get it out of your system before Thursday. Then come and join me on November 1st and do this thing. Don't think about it, do it. Because that is the difference between those who publish and those who don't. We're all nervous and doubtful and dark, we writers; it's part of why we're so good at what we do. What separates the wannabes from the pros is the courage to write in spite of anything and everything, most especially ourselves. And that's the one thing I can't teach you; you have to find it on your own. I believe we all have it in us; it's simply waiting to be found. I can tell you this much: when you do discover part of yourself, and you make that the reason you write, nothing will stop you. Not even you.

If that doesn't convince you, I have one thing for you to read. Tim Kim and the folks at NaNoWriMo's Office of Letters and Light were kind enough to lend me some space on their blog to write about another NaNoWriMo experience of mine, which you can read here.


  1. Fran K4:36 AM

    Now that's what I call a motivational post... truely inspiring.

    Wishing all you writers the best of luck for November and the challenge ahead xx

  2. charlieahern8:00 AM

    I'm looking forward to the shared struggle against the blank pages and the nasty little inner editor. Thanks for sharing the fears and determination.

    As a rookie, I'm not sure what to expect from NaNo or myself. Life threatens to interfere; I'll be working to GOTV for the election and my day-job contract was just extended for a week. My plan is to get a jump start at midnight to stockpile some words. Although, my personal goal is to double down and write 100,000 words during the month, my real focus will be on the process. "The journey is the reward." Let's have fun with NaNo.

    Bon voyage!

  3. Okay, you've convinced me. :)

    This'll be my first NaNo in six years. I thought I'd got it out of my system a long time ago, but it's been a complicated year (professionally good, healthwise not) and I can't help feeling everything could do with a good shake-up right now.

  4. You are really convincing! The biggest problem I have with it is the choice of month-- in my area November is the most beautiful month, leaves changing, everyone getting ready for the season of holidays. It's hard to concentrate on writing--March would be a much better choice for me. Happy writing to you!

  5. Glad to see I'm not the only one shaking in my boots (and puking). I am facing my 7th NaNoWriMo in a row, I've won every year, and I'm still full of doubt. Can I do it this time? is the only question that matters.

    A few weeks ago, I was making all sorts of plans and notes for my novel and then I dropped them -- partially from fear, partially from realizing that I was making a big mistake trying to write for a certain era -- I hate that time period! So I'm back to flying by the seat of my pants and focusing on having fun. I will pack my novel with stuff I love and just let it happen. One of my best NaNo novels ever was written exactly that way, so I have to have faith in my muse and my sense of humor and just let it rip.

    Wishing everyone a great November (and so glad to see a professional who is not anti-NaNo!)

  6. I worked really hard yesterday on my story prep--something difficult for this pantser to do--and was actually feeling a bit confident.

    Then this morning I got up and was immediately infested with mind parasites that almost convinced me to forget NaNo this year. Thankfully, I was saved by your post...and the article at OLL. I was reminded that each year I go through this, and each year I have to fight myself.

    What strange creatures we are...

  7. deep breath.
    Ok. I'll start Nov 1st and see where I end up.
    There is an idea hiding at the periphery of my vision. Maybe it will come out to play, too.

  8. An F.5:48 PM

    Trying to prep for my first NaNo today had me at that "wishing I were puking" stage. (Because maybe, if you did puke, you'd feel better.) Thanks for the encouragement. I can't believe it's not just us first-timers feeling this way! November will be for puking out words. Yes.

  9. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Can I do this? Why am I doing this? What makes me think I can do it?

    This is my 7th Nano, and I still wonder if I can make it through.

    I'm not prepared enough and just have a bit of a story idea I came up with this morning but places like this blog help me keep going.

    Ron B.

  10. What a wonderful, inspiring post - both here and at the NaNo site! Thanks so much. I 'unofficially' did NaNoWriMo in 2007, and that book ended up being my first published novel. However, because I wasn't an official participant I couldn't really claim it as a NaNo book. (I do, sometimes, but I don't think I'm supposed to... :))

    Since then, I've never managed 50K in one month again. Signed up last year and only got to 28,000 words. So I'm in for this year! I'm determined to do it. Good luck to you, Lynn - I'll be cheering you on!


  11. Oh no, you convinced me. I clicked 'sign up'. I haven't done Nano in years, because life kept getting in the way. Now I'm determined. I will get this silly idea down on paper. I can do this. Yes!