Before I won my first novel-in-a-month challenge, I had been writing novels for at least 10 years. Or, perhaps, almost writing them would be a better way to put it. I would start them and somewhere between the 1/3 and the 1/2 way mark, I would suddenly become gripped with the conviction that this was a terrible story. No one would want to read it, I should delete it and burn all my notes so that no one could every associate such a sophomoric, poorly written story with me.
And then one year, I won a novel-in-a-month challenge by doing one simple thing.
Okay, two simple things really.
- I refused to read anything I’d written except for perhaps a paragraph or two to get me going again.
- I refused to stop.
Both are easier said than done. The temptation to peek is insane! But don’t. Nothing will kill your story faster than reading it right now. So don’t do it!
And then, refuse to stop. Because chances are sometime this week, your story is going to get all self-conscious and it’s going to start talking to you.
In the middle of week two that fateful November when I finally wrote a novel I could finish, I distinctly remember having this conversation multiple times with my novel.
Novel: “You should stop writing, I don’t think I’m a very good book.”
Me: “Shush. You’re doing just fine.”
Novel: “No, really, I know what I’m talking about, I don’t feel good about myself. This story is dry, it’s not going anywhere, and that last bit of dialogue… whew! I don’t even know where to start!”
Me: “Be quiet all ready, I’m trying to write.”
Novel: “You’re wasting your time! I’m like the worst thing ever written!”
Me: “You really shouldn’t run yourself down all the time, you know.”
Novel: “I know, but I’m just really depressed. I don’t have a good start, I’ve got way too much weight around my middle, and I don’t think I like where you’re taking me.”
Me: “Novel, stop it. You’re a shitty first draft, that’s all you’re supposed to be, and you’re doing a marvelous job at it. So shush now and let me work. We’re going to be just fine.”
And then my novel settled down and discovered that there was something, after all, worth living for and we battled through to the middle of week three where things start looking better.
So walk away for a day if you have to, but don’t give in and whatever you do, don’t stop writing!