One of the Lansing municipal liaisons for NaNoWriMo asked if I’d write up a pep talk for week two. I decided to talk about that part in my process where the novelty and shininess has worn off, and I realize my outline is broken, and suddenly it feels like the story is crumbling in my hands, and what was I even thinking???
It happens with pretty much every book I write, usually around 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the first draft.
Here’s an excerpt from the pep talk:
This is the time in Jim’s writing process where, like Charlie Brown kicking at that elusive football, I lose my footing and end up flat on my back, staring into the sky and wondering what the heck just happened.
My shiny new idea isn’t quite so shiny anymore. I’ve gotten lots of words down, but they don’t exactly match what I was imagining. And this next part of the outline doesn’t make any sense at all, now that I think about it more closely. Good grief, the Jim who was outlining this thing last month is an idiot. And now I have to fix his mess.
Everyone’s writing process is different, of course. You might zip through the entire month with never a doubt, never a stumble. (In which case I hate you a little bit.) But most of the writers I know, beginners and pros, hit a point at least once in every project, sometimes more, where everything feels like it’s falling apart.
I’ve got eleven books in print from major publishers, and about 33% of the way through writing every single one of them, I felt like I’d missed the football. I stared at the clouds and asked who had swapped my brilliant, perfect outline with this meandering, illogical, half-baked nonsense. This was it. I’d have to tell my publisher I’d failed. The whole world would finally know I’d been faking it all along.
Now for the good news. After twenty years, I know this is a normal part of my process. I know I can get through it. I know that once I climb back out of the Pit of Despair, I’ll discover that hey, maybe this book is pretty cool after all.
Ups and downs are a normal part of the writing process. It doesn’t mean we suck. It doesn’t mean we’re going to fail. It means we’re human. Our job isn’t to be perfect; it’s to get the story down.
You can read the whole thing in the NaNoWriMo Forums.