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18 November 2008 @ 02:46 pm
For Writers  
I hit my wall last night. I was going so quickly through my novel that the wall came very suddenly out of nowhere, very unexpectedly, and smacked me very, very hard. I was running the late-night sprints in nanosprints, as I am wont to do, when, between two sprints, I felt my muse simply-- leave. Just go. No final trumpet call, no announcement, no death and gasping for air. He just ran out for cigarettes, and never came back. Suddenly, my fingers didn't want to move any more, and my neck hurt, and my eyes hurt, and my back hurt, and I didn't have an original thought in my head. 38,000 words into my NaNo, I was adrift.

I still am. I won't pretend I'm not. But I can't be alone in this. I keep thinking, "Wasn't this supposed to be a second-week thing?" But it doesn't matter; it's a now thing. So I've hunted down those pep talks that, in the past have been the most inspiring to me, and I'm copying them here for all of us. Because I simply cannot be alone.

Philip Pullman
You know which page of a novel is the most difficult to write? It's page 70. The first page is easy: it's exciting, it's new, a whole world lies in front of you. The last page is easy: you've got there at last, you know what's going to happen, all you have to do is find a resonant closing sentence. But page 70 is where the misery strikes. All the initial excitement has drained away; you've begun to see all the hideous problems you've set yourself; you are horribly aware of the minute size of your own talent compared to the colossal proportions of the task you've undertaken; that's when you really want to give up. When I hit page 70 with my very first novel, I thought: I'm never going to finish this. I'll never make it. But then stubbornness set in, and I thought: well, if I reach page 100, that'll be something. If I get there, I reckon I can make it to the end, wherever that is. And 100 is only 30 pages away, and if I write 3 pages every day, I can get there in ten days ... why don't I just try to do that? So I did. It was a terrible novel, but I finished it.

...

On the other hand, if you do love reading, if you cannot imagine going on a journey without a book in your pocket or your bag, if you fret and fidget and become uncomfortable if you're kept away from your reading for too long, if your worst nightmare is to be marooned on a desert island without a book - then take heart: there are plenty of us like you. And if you tell a story that really engages you, we are all potential readers.


My problem is that, since I started posting my story, I want to read it and not write it. I can't even say to you how many times I've reread Chapter 1, always with childlike delight. I really do adore it. I don't want to put the work into making Chapter 30 happen, though. I would rather reread Chapter 1 about a thousand more times. But I sat down to write this because there was no fanfic that satisfied my own curiosity about this situation. I wanted to read some so badly, that I decided to write some so that I could read it. I am a reader of my own fic-- of everything I write, I am a reader. I want to know what will happen, and I want to see how it will be revealed, just as badly as does everyone else. It is my desires as a reader I have to tap into, not those perfectionist ambitions of a writer. I'm just trying to take myself on an adventure, and I'm taking other people along only because there's room on the boat and they want to come.

Neil Gaiman
By now you're probably ready to give up. You're past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You're not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You're in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more---and that even when they do you're preoccupied and no fun. You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.

That's how novels get written.

You write. That's the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

...

The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.

...

One word after another.

That's the only way that novels get written
and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it's the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.


These words got me through NaNo last year, and they will again this year. IF I WANT TO READ THIS STORY, I HAVE TO WRITE IT. If elves did it, I know they wouldn't get it right anyway. It's just one word and then another. I've written about 300 words today, and that's good, heck, that's great! Because I'm still thousands of words ahead of pace, and I'm still swimming.

When you hit the wall, you've got to tie the wall onto your fins and keep going. You've got to find that strength. Because that's when you do or when you don't. Writing when it's easy to write is easy. Anyone can do that. Writing when it's hard is what separates the men from the boys, the novelists from the wannabees.

So, let's do it! On the count of three, add a word! 1, 2, 3, *aaarrrrrrrrgh*


38734 / 50000 words. 77% done!

Yeah, that was just about as hard as it sounded. And I don't even slightly want to share the sentence I just wrote.

Keep on swimming ;)

*public, because who knows who this could help.
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lurker_of_note: shitlurker_of_note on November 21st, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
wow. and here i am stumped with a motivational letter for a bursary. i can't come up with anything other than: give me your money!

i hope the writing picks up for you ;p
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on November 22nd, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
"Show me the money!"

Writing it as writing does. I'm at page 67, which is too close to Philip Pullman's page 70 for the writing to pick up, but it goes :)
ecogryff: Tohru joyecogryff on November 21st, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
*sings in Dory voice* keep on swimming, keep swimming... : )
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on November 22nd, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
Exactly!