Well, it’s finally here. Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite season of NaNoWriMo: the week when you doubt everything and fantasize about quitting to go work on a tall ship. The week you realize that everything you’ve ever written is complete and utter trash. You begin to see yourself as the worst, angry internet critics would see you. Your plot is stale, your characters are unbelievable, your style is lacking, your entire story has been told forty times over. That’s right friends, we’re in the NaNo slump.
In years past the NaNo slump has been my great enemy. In fact, it has actually defeated me before (which always feel terrible, and leaves you with a novel you definitely don’t want to touch again). Yes, the NaNo slump has defeated even the most qualified writer (check out Neil Gaiman’s pep talk). It’s a beast, the thing you know is lurking in the wilds when you set out, but you pray you’ll never meet. It’s everything you hate about your book, your writing, your talents.
Take some comfort in knowing that we’re pretty much all feeling this. (Despite my shouting two weeks ago that I couldn’t fall into the slump because I’m writing a “romance” novel.) Most writers have this crisis around the 3/4 mark. You’ve written just enough to feel qualified, but you have enough left that you wonder if it’s even worth finishing. I’m here to tell you: finish it. The trouble with being a writer is that the book in your head and the book you write will never compare. The book in your head will always be exponentially better than the one you’re writing. In your head the book is perfectly possible, it’s just… wonderful. I’m sorry to tell you this, but the book in your head will never be real. The book in your head won’t magically appear on the paper if you start reading books on writing, improve your writing, start again, plan more, etc etc etc. There is always a reason to quit writing—to convince yourself that the next round will be better. Well guess what, friends? You’re already in this mess. You’ve already committed, you’ve got somewhere past 20,000 words to prove it. Do not let those words die–I promise they’re important. Maybe they don’t feel right, maybe they won’t make it to the final cut, but they are part of your story. They are helping you the take the book in your head to the page. Trust them, trust yourself. Your words are worthwhile. Hunt for the hidden gems in your work—the sentences that make you ask “wait, I wrote that?” Hold onto them. Reread them, remind yourself of them. You can do this. You can find the words, the story, the characters. You are a writer. No one can stop you. Critics are far away, made up ghosts. Right now, it is just you and your novel. No one else needs to know that you wrote the sentence “It’s like kissing a fantasy” (yes, that is an actual line from my piece of trash). Don’t get bogged down in the failure. You are doing something wonderful for yourself, for your goals, for the part of you that always nagged about being a writer. Being a writer means pushing through the terrible drivel. You are a writer.
Start acting like one.
Here’s an excerpt from the dark days of my NaNo novel:
“What do you read?” I ask, sitting down on the floor. I lean against the bookshelf, and pat the carpet next to me. Hamid sits.
“Promise not to laugh?”
“Hamid, you just caught me reading Sinners in the Bedroom: Preying Bodies. I think we’re well-past judgments.” I take the book down again. I’ll probably end up buying this, who am I kidding?
“I like to read… vampire novels.”
It takes too much effort to keep a straight face.
“Vampire novels?” I ask, my voice too high.
“See—I knew you would laugh,” Hamid elbows me. “It’s stupid, I know.”
“It’s not… stupid. It’s… different,” I offer. “Anyway, I’m sure they’re good.”
“No they’re not. They’re all pretty terrible. Most are just awful stories about girls falling in love with overly possessive guys. It’s hard to stomach.”
God, I’ve forgotten how much I love Hamid.
“For the most part I stick to this author, G. L. Breskin. She’s super into the scientific aspect of the disease, so she fleshes out the biology. She’s got a thirteen book series out right now, called Holding Back Sunrise…. wow, that sounds dumb when you say it out loud.”
I smile, and imagine Hamid reading his nerdy book in my living room. CRAP.
“It sounds pretty interesting, actually.”
“What about you? Do you read erotica?”
I laugh. “God, no. Not often, anyway. Just when I…” Wow, good corner you’ve painted yourself into, Cassandra. Just when I’m feeling particularly horny? “Just on occasion. I mostly read…” What the hell do I read? If I say I read classics I sound like a pretentious jerk. If I say I read young adult supernatural lit, I sound like an immature weirdo. “… contemporary novels.”
That’s a far cry from the truth. I’ve read one contemporary novel since graduating college. And I didn’t finish it.
“Oh really? I’ve always wanted to read good books. What was the last book you read?”
Witches Academy Book 14.
“Um, something by Ross G… Schroder.” Totally made up name. No way this can backfire. “He’s written several books that have won awards in the UK.”
I think I’m out of the woods, but Hamid pulls out his phone.
“Nice. Do you have any recommendations?”
Come on, stop being so likeable. I’m lying, you idiot.
I look around the bookstore.
“Uh yeah, you should read… The Blue Chair… at Midnight.” Don’t turn around Hamid, please don’t turn around and witness the blue chair right behind you.
“Huh, I can’t seem to find it anywhere online.”
“Strange. Well, he’s really unknown at this point, I think he self-published most of his works. Most companies don’t sell his stuff.”
“Didn’t you say he won an award?”
“Did I?” Ugh. “Well, not everyone is as well-educated as the British. Anyway, were you doing anything the rest of the day?”
Was that worse? It sounds like I’m trying to ask him out. Am I asking him out? Damn you, subconscious.
Have anything you’re particularly proud of? Share your gems in the comments! We’re not past bragging here. Talk yourself up!