We’re well into NaNoWriMo, and the emotions are doing what they do — shooting us high and dropping us low! For me, it’s never a wall of doubt. Rather, the creeping suspicions start gradually, a little like a walk through a damp field: “Hm, is the ground getting soft? No? Maybe? Maybe. Okay, definitely getting a little muddy, here. Oops, I’m sinking. Oh, hey, I’m out in the middle of the field, but I don’t want to back-track. I’ll just try to make it to the other side. Oh, no. Pretty sticky. There goes my shoe, oops, the other one, too. Wait, is this quicksand, or…?” And, pretty soon, I’m nearly stuck in the self-doubt. “Is this story stupid? It seemed cool when I was outlining! Will anyone want to read it? Do I even want anyone to read it? I’ll be a joke; people will say I’m a ‘writer’ with air quotes! I have to quit, change my name, and move somewhere with no Internet…” Just. Wait. If the ol’ feels are kicking you around, consider this when it feels like your writing’s no good:
Why are you writing a novel in November? You can write one anytime. Why now? Is it to write great literature? Probably not. You likely signed up for this contest so that, at the end of the month, you’ll have a manuscript in your hands. Can you spend December polishing it into something wonderful. Yes! (If you want great literature, you’ll probably need January, too 🙂 )
So, lighten up. Have fun with it. You volunteered, it’s not all-or-nothing, it’s just all-in.
Look Ahead, Not Back
Think about the ending of your current chapter, and write toward it. Make each scene propel you to that end. And when you reach the chapter’s conclusion, dance a little. Then repeat.
But, whatever you do, don’t look back. Don’t start re-writing or revising now. And, for goodness’s sake, don’t delete what you’ve got and start over! That’s not what NaNoWriMo is all about. It’s about steadily writing forward, not several false starts with no finishing. So treat yourself to a win and do what you set out to do on November 1st.
Can NaNoWriMo result in a catastrophic mess of a manuscript? Absolutely. But a mess is still better than no manuscript at all. You may choose to rewrite the whole darn thing in December, but you’ll have better success with a total rewrite with your finished stinker to guide you. My mangled, bizarre, and oh-so-rough drafts from previous Novembers are like a gold mine to me now.
Invest in your new year…
No matter how the doubt gnaws away at you, hear me: you will be glad you stuck with it and finished. Your novel won’t be as good as you hoped but it’s nowhere near as bad as you suspect. Stick with it, party on November 30th, and tuck it into a folder ’til January. When you come back to it like a stranger, you’ll fall in love with the idea all over again!
NOW YOU: When it feels like your writing’s no good (even on a project you expected to love!), how do you motivate yourself to stay the course?