I’ve spent most of the morning going through the half-finished draft of my second book scene by scene. I need to reacquaint myself with the plot, the characters and their dialogue quirks (basically everything) before the start of NaNoWriMo, so that I stand a chance of knowing what the heck I’m writing about.
I’m left to wonder why I never finished the thing. It’s not for lack of plot, or lack of passion for the story. I think it’s for five understandable, but preventable reasons.
Putting urgent before important
Fiction writing is very important to me, yet it often gets placed on the back burner as other, urgent tasks take priority. I think it’s best to practice fiction writing every day. Yes, there are urgent tasks that need to be done immediately (like that 8 hours a day when I need to, you know, earn money), but I should still take the time to plan, and write.
Big, BIG problem. There’s just so much out there! During NaNoWriMo, I’m going to try to set time aside to just write, and ignore the little clicking noise my phone makes when I have a new email or Tweet that needs attention. (Maybe I’ll let myself check after every chapter…)
I find that this is less of a problem when I’ve got a plot to work with, and characters that I know. I think I should be okay this year, but it can be a real problem. If I’m really stuck for what to say next I find getting away from the computer helps. Maybe make another vat of coffee, go for a walk, or read a chapter of a favourite book? It’s always interesting to hear how other people deal with writers block, what works for you?
The inner critic
Does anybody else get this? You’re in the middle of writing a scene, it’s going well, and then you make the fatal decision to read it back. Suddenly it reads differently. Nothing is right. It sounds clichéd. Maybe you think about your favourite author and think “Oh my God, I’ll never be as good as [INSERT NAME OF LITERARY GOD HERE]”. Well, no, you can only be as good as yourself. It can be hard to do it, but telling that side of yourself to shut up is really important, or you’ll give up, and never know how good you could be if you just kept working.
This, for me, is more of a post-NaNoWriMo problem. I like to work a chapter to death. This isn’t right, that’s wrong, this is too much dialogue, there’s too much description here etc. Don’t get me wrong, my NaNo writings need a lot of work, it needs redrafting, proofing and editing, but you don’t want to edit all the personality out of it. It’s got to have your voice and style. Get obsessed with making it as close to perfect as possible and chances are you’ll be editing the same 50,000 plus words for the next 10 years.
I guess it’s important to remember that every book on the shelf represents a writer that has put hundreds of hours of writing and redrafting into its pages – they don’t have some awesome superpower that means they can write a perfect book in a week, they just get on with it.